ARTICLE: Is this NSW's most important debate?
AHEAD of State Parliament debate on a bill allowing terminally ill people to voluntarily end their lives, it has been revealed about 60% of the Coffs Coast population may one day require palliative care.
Statistics suggest one in seven of us may face the prospect of living with intolerable pain and suffering at the end of our lives, however debate on assisted dying this week has also been met with strong public opposition.
Dying with Dignity NSW this week heralded the move towards the Voluntary Assisted Dying Bill 2017 proceeding before State Parliament next month.
NSW Nationals MLC Trevor Khan will formally initiate the bill in State Parliament on September 21 with a second reading speech in the Upper House and formal debate to begin in October.
The Voluntary Assisted Dying Bill has been drafted under a two-year process by a parliamentary working group made up of members from the Coalition, Labor, Greens and an independent.
Mr Khan said despite strong opposition from key cross bench MLCs in the Christian Democrats and Shooters, Fishers and Farmers, he expected the bill should receive a narrow vote in favour through the Upper House.
"It's tight, but at this stage we've got the numbers," Mr Khan said on radio.
The draft bill would give a person over the age of 25 the right to request assistance from a medical practitioner to end their life and if legislated would also enable a close relative of the patient to apply to the Supreme Court for a judicial review.
An Essential Media poll of more than 1000 Australians this month found 73% of voters supported the move to allow patients with "unrelievable suffering" to die with a doctor's help.
In staunch opposition, Christian Democrats founder and assistant president of the Legislative Council, Fred Nile, has vowed to fight the assisted dying legislation saying he would be "very suspicious" of the draft bill and concerned the minimum age would eventually be lowered.
"I know the objective is to bring in the euthanasia bill. They're trying to dress it up and hope that people will fall for it," Rev Nile said.
The importance of the assisted dying debate has resonated strongly on the Coffs Coast for decades, with euthanasia campaigner and founder of Exit International, Dr Phillip Nitschke, regularly staging public addresses in Coffs Harbour.
Local assisted dying advocate Mark Benson said ahead of the bill's passage in to the Upper House, a screening of the documentary Fade to Black featuring the final months of Peter Short's life, would be screened at Sawtell's Majestic Cinema on Tuesday, September 12.
Mr Short, who was the CEO of the multi-billion Shell Coles Express company, lost his battle with cancer in 2014.
Mr Benson said the debate had great local importance given a review of the latest Census data reveals there were 29,811 residents aged over 55 years living in Coffs Harbour, who are likely to face their own mortality over the next 35 years.
"Studies show that palliative care is not able to to eliminate physical pain in up to 25% of cases.
"It's effectiveness on psychological suffering is not known," Mr Benson said.
"It is a fair assumption, then, that 4472 local residents will die a painful and undignified death unless we can offer a solution that goes beyond palliative care.
"In other words, one person will die in intolerable pain every three days.
"I lost my mum earlier this year and Dad passed away a few years ago.
"I can't say their suffering was as bad as Peter Short's or many other people who have died, however I felt that they both should have had a more peaceful and dignified exit.
"In other words, it becomes the treatment in the bottom of the palliative care doctor's kit bag."