On September 16, 2021, in a 60-29 parliamentary vote, Queensland became the fifth state of the Australian federation to legalize “voluntary assisted dying” (VAD). The only state in Australia which has not done so is New South Wales. But even there, the parliament is considering amending legislation in order to introduce VAD.
Queensland‘s new law is expected to take effect in January 2023, legalizing “assisted suicide” for people of legal age who suffer from an advanced, progressive and terminal illness and whose natural death would be expected within a year. The law also requires that persons have full mental faculties, and must be examined by two physicians. They must also formally request assisted dying three times over the course of at least nine days.
Despite the jubilation of pro-VAD associations, favorable parliamentarians and Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk, the issues that such legislation brings to the table are numerous and crucial.
For example, a report issued in December by Australia’s Institute of Family Studies (AIFS), a body of the Australian government (also published by Australian Care Alliance–an organization formed in 2018 and made up of healthcare professionals, lawyers and activists to oppose any euthanasia practices in the country) highlights an issue that had not been considered with the proper gravity for the situation: the elderly in Australia are increasingly being abused. One out of every six seniors complains of being abused during the past twelve months.
The are victims of physical abuse, psychological abuse, financial abuse; abuses very often perpetrated in the family, mainly by adult male children, with the connivance of the partner and mainly for economic reasons. Abuses of whom these fragile and vulnerable people are ashamed. And therefore, they tend to keep hidden so as not to create difficulties for their children; who also happen to be their very tormentors.
It’s not hard to imagine the resigned state of mind with which these seniors might look upon “assisted suicide” as the lesser of two evils; as a way to end suffering at an age when society, as a whole, only repeats and emphasizes how little dignity their lives have.
“The age profile of Australia’s population is getting older all the time,” says the AIFS report, which adds that “[…] the 65 and over age group is expected to grow from 3.8 million to 8.8 million over the next 25 years.”
As the number of elderly people increases, and as effective palliative care requires the allocation of considerable funds, the next generation waits with cynical impatience for the legacy of their grandparents.
And the numbers are adding up fast.
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