This is our Guan­tanamo

The Saturday Paper - - Letters & Editorial -

For four years, Aus­tralia has tor­tured the men on Manus Is­land. They have been de­prived and ex­ploited. Some have been killed. More have killed them­selves. Now they are aban­doned. Their suf­fer­ing has ex­ceeded its po­lit­i­cal pur­pose.

This is our na­tional shame. It is evil. It is in­hu­man­ity on an in­dus­trial scale, cal­cu­lated and ap­palling.

These men have been ru­ined by Aus­tralia and now they are to be for­got­ten. They are the liv­ing ghosts of a pol­icy mur­der­ous in its cyn­i­cism.

This is our Guan­tanamo. We know who is guilty, but it is all of us who are re­spon­si­ble.

Mal­colm Turn­bull (02) 6277 7700 (02) 9327 3988

Bill Shorten (02) 6277 4022 (03) 9326 1300

Life­line • 13 11 14

On death and dy­ing

Martin McKen­zie-Mur­ray (“In­side the pass­ing of Vic­to­ria’s as­sisted dy­ing law” and “Ni­a­gara re­flec­tions”, Oc­to­ber 28-Novem­ber 3) writes twice about death and dy­ing. His Ni­a­gara re­flec­tions are in­ter­wo­ven with the ap­par­ent sui­cide of a man who, de­spite po­lice coun­selling, leaps to his death. This is sui­cide writ large – we do not know his state of mind, but can rea­son­ably as­sume it is dis­turbed. His death is vi­o­lent and lonely (apart from the thou­sands of un­re­lated voyeurs). Un­doubt­edly those who loved him would be rocked by grief and pos­si­bly guilt. Else­where McKen­zie-Mur­ray writes of the ge­n­e­sis and progress of Vic­to­ria’s Vol­un­tary As­sisted Dy­ing

(VAD) Bill. This bill would not be where it is to­day, poised for de­bate in the Leg­isla­tive Coun­cil, with­out the ex­pe­ri­ences of the pre­mier (his fa­ther dy­ing of can­cer) and the health min­is­ter (her mother dy­ing of mul­ti­ple scle­ro­sis). The dis­tinc­tion be­tween death and dy­ing is im­por­tant. Death in­volves a few min­utes and is the end of any prior suf­fer­ing, but dy­ing is the days, weeks and of­ten months pre­ced­ing death, when suf­fer­ing – phys­i­cal, psy­cho­log­i­cal and ex­is­ten­tial – can steadily es­ca­late to an in­tol­er­a­ble level. This is what the VAD Bill seeks to hu­manely and com­pas­sion­ately ad­dress. Op­po­nents of the leg­is­la­tion con­stantly de­scribe it as as­sisted sui­cide, state-sanc­tioned sui­cide, or even killing. The bill al­lows a doc­tor to as­sist, af­ter a sec­ond opin­ion, a men­tally com­pe­tent per­son who has in­tol­er­a­ble suf­fer­ing from a ter­mi­nal ill­ness and who has made an en­dur­ing re­quest to end their life by pro­vid­ing ap­pro­pri­ate med­i­ca­tion which they must self-ad­min­is­ter. The suf­fer­ing per­son can dis­cuss their de­ci­sion openly with their doc­tor and their fam­ily, and can then die at home, when they choose (or not), peace­fully, se­curely, with dig­nity, sur­rounded by the love of their fam­ily. Com­pare that with the man at Ni­a­gara Falls. Sui­cide – I don’t think so. It is a good death to bring suf­fer­ing to a calm and peace­ful end. W.H. Au­den wrote that love and death were the only two sub­jects wor­thy of the at­ten­tion of lit­er­a­ture. In vol­un­tary as­sisted dy­ing, these two sub­jects can co­a­lesce.

– Dr Rod­ney Syme, Toorak, Vic

Doc­tors op­posed to fi­nal act

The as­sisted dy­ing ar­ti­cle omit­ted any men­tion of the op­po­si­tion of the ma­jor­ity of doc­tors to this bill. Most doc­tors know death in its many forms and un­der­stand the fear it holds for most. When polls re­port that most peo­ple sup­port eu­thana­sia, I sus­pect they re­flect the fear of dy­ing badly. This leg­is­la­tion ap­pears driven by pow­er­ful per­sonal ex­pe­ri­ences, but it should also be tem­pered by eth­i­cal and prac­ti­cal con­sid­er­a­tions. The fi­nal act will be the ad­min­is­tra­tion or con­sump­tion of some ef­fec­tive po­tion to ex­tin­guish life. This bill le­git­imises that ex­tin­guish­ing of life. We have had and re­pealed state-sanc­tioned ex­tin­guish­ing of life be­cause of the bru­tal­is­ing im­pact on our so­ci­ety and the in­sight that safe­guards don’t al­ways work. The involvement of med­i­cal prac­ti­tion­ers in any form of cor­po­ral pun­ish­ment has been seen as the ul­ti­mate be­trayal of the Hip­po­cratic oath. Le­gal­is­ing state-sanc­tioned death may free the doc­tor from state re­crim­i­na­tion but not from his or her fun­da­men­tal prin­ci­ples. A pa­tient fac­ing im­pend­ing death needs sup­port and to trust in their doc­tor. They should be able to have an un­am­bigu­ous un­der­stand­ing of their doc­tor’s help with liv­ing and dy­ing but not their killing.

– John W. Owen, South Yarra, Vic

At­tack on in­de­pen­dent voices

In des­per­ately seek­ing to find dirt to jus­tify po­lice in­tru­sions on GetUp!, the prob­lems in our body politic are sadly laid bare ( Mike Sec­combe, “Turn­bull sought help from GetUp! for spill”, Oc­to­ber 28-Novem­ber 3). Con­sider these com­ments: “Ac­cord­ing to Sheikh ... the or­gan­i­sa­tion’s fo­cus re­mains sin­gle-mind­edly on ad­vanc­ing pro­gres­sive is­sues” and “Merely ex­ist­ing to ad­vance pro­gres­sive pol­i­tics, to pull the po­lit­i­cal cen­tre to the left, does not mean some­one is as­so­ci­ated with or co-or­di­nat­ing with one or more po­lit­i­cal par­ties”. In pres­sur­ing GetUp! to lose its in­de­pen­dence, what Mal­colm Turn­bull and Michaelia Cash are telling us is that we, the peo­ple, can­not ad­vo­cate free-think­ing pol­icy and we can­not aim for con­sen­sus over so-called pro­gres­sive is­sues. In other words, we must only have com­pli­ant si­lence or op­po­si­tional view­points aligned to ma­jor par­ties. And we’re sup­posed to have faith that sound, rea­soned pol­icy can emerge and re­ally be “in the na­tional in­ter­est”. Many of us watch in dis­be­lief, how­ever, at this “group-think” as par­lia­men­tar­i­ans who grew up with all the ben­e­fits of lib­eral democ­racy turn their backs on de­cency.

– Gil Anaf, Nor­wood, SA

At­tack on Indige­nous voices

Aus­tralia has two prom­i­nent lead­ers – the prime min­is­ter, and Indige­nous el­der Dr Galar­rwuy Yunupingu (Ed­i­to­rial, “Break­ing the heart”, Oc­to­ber 28-Novem­ber 3). Turn­bull’s re­fusal to recog­nise his coun­ter­part per­pet­u­ates the wrongs done to the Indige­nous pop­u­la­tion. He failed by not re­spond­ing to Yunupingu’s call for a Makar­rata com­mis­sion. Turn­bull’s le­gacy is ne­glected peo­ple dis­missed un­der his gov­ern­ment. The min­is­ter for Abo­rig­i­nal af­fairs does not rep­re­sent Indige­nous peo­ple. He stands for the gov­ern­ment’s pol­icy of ex­clu­sion.

– Vanessa Toomey, Belle­vue Hill, NSW

Dra­matic heights

I live in the coun­try and there are few av­enues for stim­u­la­tion. How­ever, along with Ra­dio Na­tional, The New Yorker, the Fin Re­view, The Satur­day Pa­per and Time, I get by. Peter Craven’s re­view of Yerma (“Bil­lie boils”, Oc­to­ber 21-27) damn near had me in tears. Craven gave me the at­mos­phere and emo­tion of the piece. He ex­posed me to the power of Bil­lie Piper and Bren­dan Cow­ell such that I al­most hopped a plane to Melbourne.

– Michael Wel­don, Nabageena, Tas

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