Emeritus Professor Ian Maddocks, a member of the Victorian Government's expert Ministerial Advisory Panel into Voluntary Assisted Dying, discusses issues around voluntary assisted dying and palliative care.
I've had a number of patients whom I know, who've taken their own lives with drugs that I've prescribed, and I feel very bad about that because they had to do it in private without letting me know, and often without letting their families know because it was illegal.
And if it can be legalised, then those few people who can't be looked after well enough or don't feel that they want to be looked after like this, they will have a better access to something they really want - and it's very much in the opportunity of giving people the chance to have control.
I've looked after many patients who've died at home, and to see the patient die in the centre of the family concerned and the family familiar surroundings and go through it with them is a lovely experience very often. People sometimes say 'this is the most powerful experience I've ever been through, to take mum through this final course'. And I think most people who access voluntary assisted dying would prefer to do it at home. Some will say 'no I don't want the family to be involved, I'd rather do it somewhere else', but I think that most people will want to choose where they die and will want to choose a familiar environment where they feel that same sense of control.
There's been quite a lot discomfort in palliative care about the whole question of assisted dying, and there are many reasons for that, and I wanted to be sure that palliative care felt more comfortable with the process and was willing to be involved with looking after people while they were going through a process of accessing voluntary assisted dying.
I don't think it will change palliative care very much. Most palliative care practitioners will not want to be part of voluntary assisted dying. But it's most important that they continue to do what they've always done with great care and compassion, and make sure that when people do go that way, when people do access voluntary assisted dying - they still have opportunity to see palliative care support with them, right through to the end.