Symes give pas­sion­ate speech

Benalla Ensign - - News - By Si­mon Rup­pert

State Mem­ber for North­ern Vic­to­ria, and for­mer Be­nalla stu­dent, Ja­clyn Symes de­liv­ered a pas­sion­ate speech on as­sisted dy­ing in Vic­to­ria’s up­per house last week be­fore see­ing the leg­is­la­tion pass its lat­est read­ing.

Vic­to­ria’s ter­mi­nally ill are in­creas­ingly likely to be able to make their own end of life de­ci­sions after the as­sisted dy­ing leg­is­la­tion was passed by two votes.

The bill passed 22-18 after two days of of emo­tional de­bate with MPs given a con­science vote on the mat­ter, how­ever, there is still some way to go be­fore it is passed into law.

The bill will now en­ter the com­mit­tee stage where each clause will be scru­ti­nised and de­bated, a process which may take a num­ber of months.

Any changes to the leg­is­la­tion would then need to pass back through the lower house be­fore it could be­come law.

Ms Symes thanked con­stituents who had shared a num­ber of har­row­ing sto­ries with her be­fore say­ing that she hopes Par­lia­ment can live up to their ex­pec­ta­tions.

‘‘For a small num­ber of peo­ple, the ar­rival of death is her­alded by a med­i­cal di­ag­no­sis of a ter­mi­nal ill­ness that, de­spite the best of treat­ments avail­able . . . is be­yond cure,’’ Ms Symes said.

‘‘I have lis­tened to the sto­ries of peo­ple with mo­tor neu­rone dis­ease, a cruel and in­sid­i­ous dis­ease that takes apart one by one the fac­ul­ties and abil­i­ties of our hu­man selves and leaves be­hind an out­ward shell that was once an ac­tive, vi­brant and loved wife or hus­band, daugh­ter or son, or brother or sis­ter.

‘‘I have heard, too, the heart­break of so many ter­mi­nal can­cer ex­pe­ri­ences, of­ten after years of suc­cess­ful and hard-fought bat­tles against the dis­ease.

‘‘And I have heard of the shar­ing of the mo­ment in time when a doc­tor fi­nally utters the words, ‘there is noth­ing more that we can do’. This has been de­scribed to me as sur­real and dev­as­tat­ing.

‘‘My role as an MP is about help­ing peo­ple . . . (and) when there is not a so­lu­tion within the sys­tem, we need to ex­am­ine if that sys­tem should be changed.

‘‘The bill be­fore us to­day begs the ques­tion, can we make changes, can we do bet­ter . . . I be­lieve we can and we must.’’

It is hardly sur­pris­ing that Ms Symes is back­ing the leg­is­la­tion given her role on the min­is­te­rial com­mit­tee that was charged with draft­ing it.

How­ever, with many MPs still un­de­cided on the mat­ter it is the speeches made in both houses of the Vic­to­rian Par­lia­ment that may sway those who are still un­sure.

In Oc­to­ber, State Mem­ber for Euroa and Deputy leader of the Na­tion­als Steph Ryan also gave an im­pas­sioned speech on the sub­ject.

She said she would not sup­port the leg­is­la­tion in its cur­rent form.

‘‘I want those peo­ple who feel they are left with no op­tion but to take their own life to have a choice about how they die,’’ Ms Ryan said.

‘‘But in or­der for me to sup­port the leg­is­la­tion the gov­ern­ment needs to ad­dress the gaps that I have out­lined.’’

Those gaps in­clude a lack of in­for­ma­tion about the drug that will be used to end life, pos­si­ble flaws in the safe­guards process and what Ms Ryan de­scribes as the gov­ern­ment’s fail­ure to ad­dress pal­lia­tive care.

With the leg­is­la­tion en­ter­ing the com­mit­tee stage it is likely that all those points and more will be scru­ti­nised.

How­ever, based on the weight of po­lit­i­cal and pub­lic opin­ion it looks like it will be a mat­ter of when, not if, this leg­is­la­tion is passed into law.

Ja­clyn Symes

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