Assisted dying helped ease my brother's suffering, says Warrnambool's John Snaauw

OVERDUE: John Snaauw is relieved Victorians will have access to assisted dying from Wednesday. Picture: Christine Ansorge
OVERDUE: John Snaauw is relieved Victorians will have access to assisted dying from Wednesday. Picture: Christine Ansorge

John Snaauw is relieved Victoria's assisted dying laws will come into effect on Wednesday.

The 92-year-old from Warrnambool said if he ever finds himself in a position where his suffering cannot be eased, he will consider assisted dying - just as his brother did more than 20 years ago.

"It's long overdue," Mr Snaauw said. "It should have come in years ago."

Mr Snaauw's brother Sjoerd chose assisted suicide in his home in Holland in 1995 after a battle with throat cancer.

His brother, who was 74, wanted to die in his own home and didn't want to become dependent on his family in his final days.

A nurse who works in the district also welcomed the assisted dying laws.

I think it's a basic human right to be able to make that choice.

Caramut's Amy Young

"It's terrible watching these poor people suffer when there's not much more we can do," she said.

The nurse said she hoped other states would follow suit and allow people suffering to go peacefully.

A former south-west woman who works in aged care said she also supports the introduction of the laws in Victoria.

"I really support assisted dying, especially for those suffering from a terminal illness," the woman, who asked not to be named, said.

"Working in aged care has opened my eyes to the suffering the elderly go through, but it can also be at any age."

Caramut's Amy Young said assisted dying allowed people in pain to pass away peacefully.

"I think it's a basic human right to be able to make that choice," she said.

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The laws will come into force on Wednesday, June 19, and will allow terminally ill adults who have about six months to live and meet other strict eligibility criteria - such as being able to give informed consent - access to a lethal substance.

Victoria is the first state in Australia to pass assisted dying laws.

Assisted dying will only be available to Victorians over the age of 18 who have lived in the state for at least 12 months.

Deakin University health law expert and Associate Professor Neera Bhatia said it was important to emphasise that voluntary assisted dying would only be available to a very limited few.

"There maybe an initial surge in interest, however due to the strict criteria it will not be accessible to many," Associate Professor Bhatia said.

"But there is another piece of important legislation that ensures the wishes of all Victorians can be respected at the end of their lives."

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews embraces Health Minister Jill Hennessy after the Victoria assisted dying bill passed in the Legislative Council in October last year. Picture: AAP/Julian Smith

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews embraces Health Minister Jill Hennessy after the Victoria assisted dying bill passed in the Legislative Council in October last year. Picture: AAP/Julian Smith

The Medical Treatment Planning and Decisions Act 2016 allows people to make an advance care directive outlining their future medical wishes and treatment preferences.

"Many of us won't meet the stringent criteria for voluntary assisted dying, but we still want to die 'a good death' and have some control over our end-of-life decision making," Associate Professor Bhatia said.

"Any advanced care directive can be an extremely powerful individual tool, giving people choices that will have an impact on their quality of life, based on their personal beliefs and value system."

Associate Professor Bhatia urged people to look at advance care planning as a way to control decisions about how they are cared for.

"We must try to turn this conversation from voluntary assisted dying, which affects a very small proportion of society, to how we can all have control over our health and how we are cared for at all stages of our lives, not just at the end of life.

"It is a common misconception that advance care planning is for the elderly or the critically sick. We should be aiming for a healthcare system where it is common practice that general practitioners are discussing advance care planning with patients at routine medical appointments."