Fighting for the legal right to die with dignity

Determined: Kym Watson (centre) with Angie Miller (A Peaceful End) and Anne Bunning (VAD). Photo: Supplied.
Determined: Kym Watson (centre) with Angie Miller (A Peaceful End) and Anne Bunning (VAD). Photo: Supplied.

Calls are growing for South Australians suffering from terminal illnesses to be given the ability to engage in voluntary assisted dying.

Debate on the 17th Voluntary Assisted Dying (VAD) Bill to be presented to the State Parliament in 26 years resumed on Wednesday, May 5, with all politicians to be permitted a conscious vote on the issue in the coming weeks.

The new VAD Bill was introduced to Parliament by Labor MP Kyam Maher and includes 68 safeguards modelled on Victorian legislation.

Goolwa man Kym Watson has been a strong advocate for the implementation of VAD legislation and at the age of 64, is already grappling with his mortality.

Mr Watson first became ill with cancer in 2014 and has since been diagnosed with a range of further health complications.

VAD support: The 2019 Vote Compass results released by Voluntary Assisted Dying SA show majority support for proposed laws. Photo: Supplied.

VAD support: The 2019 Vote Compass results released by Voluntary Assisted Dying SA show majority support for proposed laws. Photo: Supplied.

"I'm a person of faith and like a lot of people of faith today, I believe we should have voluntary assisted dying; it's very important," Mr Watson said.

"As a person who has dealt with cancer, chemotherapy and radiation treatment who then went on to get Parkinsons/Multiple System Atrophy and deals with incredibly complex health problems following chemo... I have experienced a lot of pain.

"I started thinking very seriously about what I was hearing at church and have stood up to say I believe in VAD.

"Having spent so much time in hospital, I have seen firsthand the pain and agony that patients and their families go through."

Member for Finniss David Basham sat on the committee tasked with examining VAD legislation and said he was "very keen to see some legislation in this space".

"But we do need to make sure we are protecting all those involved... including those wishing to use the option of VAD, but also the medical staff involved," Mr Basham said

"I support the choice, but only when proper protections are in place for everyone."

Data provided to The Times by Voluntary Assisted Dying SA shows 79 percent of voters in the Finniss electorate are in favour of VAD.

Mr Watson said a lack of VAD was also having wider societal impacts.

"It's not just those with terminal illnesses; their families and our emergency workers are all suffering from this too," Mr Watson said.

"A percentage of people with terminal illnesses take their own lives and this often takes places in horrible, violent circumstances. People who love them find them and emergency services have to deal with the aftermath, it's just wrong.

"Apart from being incredibly sad, this is also costing the state a lot of money... through suicides and the flow on mental health impacts on family members and emergency workers, as well as NDIS costs to keep people alive who are suffering and would prefer to pass on in peace."

Voluntary Assisted Dying SA will host a public forum on the issue at the Hotel Victor from 10.30am on Wednesday, May 19.