On 22 - 23 September 2016, Exit International held its 20th Anniversary Conference at the State Library of Victoria.
About the Conference
This conference sought to challenge and change the right to die debate.
Current models of law reform frame the right to die debate as solely for the terminally ill.
Aid in Dying / Dying with Dignity are concepts based on the conferment of medical privileges for the very, very sick.
'If you are sick enough, then you may be able to request assistance to die (well).'
What about our civil rights? Let's reconceptualize the discussion.
Dying well, and at a time/ place of one's choosing, is the fundamental human right of every adult of sound mind?
Everybody Deserves a Peaceful Death?
To help us understand the debate past / present we have invited cultural historian, Dr Deb Campbell, provided the opening keynote address.
Dr Campbell’s principal argument -- and the theme of the conference -- is that the current ‘NOBA’ model for euthanasia law-making is misplaced. ‘NOBA’ = Not Only But Also!
In current law reform models NOT ONLY must you be so ill as likely to die within months, BUT you must ALSO gain the permission of the medical profession if you seek to qualify to use such a law!
For many people, this sits badly. From Exit’s perspective, the decision of when and how to die is much more fundamental. We are talking civil rights vis a vis medical treatment.
It is our life and we should be the sole arbiters in how it ends. Medical qualification, beyond being of sound mind, is up for critique.
Dr Campbell's new book - Doing Us Slowly - is essential reading for anyone who wants to understand the past and the future of the right to die debate.
Dr Deb Campbell (Australia) - Doing Us Slowly: What's Happened to the Australian Voluntary Euthanasia Debate? Conference Opening Address
Professor Susan Stefan (USA) - Rational Suicide, Irrational Laws (Oxford University Press, 2016)
(Read the recent Huffington Post review of Stefan's book)
Dr Lieve Thienpont (Belgium) - Psychiatrist who works with requests to die from the psychiatrically ill & some non-terminally ill elderly in Belgium
Professor Sean Davison (South Africa) - President of the World Federation of Right to Die Societies & Founder of Dignity Sth Africa. Professor Davison was convicted of the attempted murder of his mother in NZ in 2011.
Dr Anne Summers (Australia) - Australian Living Treasure & Foundation Feminist
Professor Emeritus Dennis Altman (Australia) - Gay Rights Activist & Leading Academic (Latrobe University)
Professor Tony Van Loon (Belgium) - Belgian Law Professor & Ethicist who recently experienced the planned death of his mother
Professor Brian Martin (Australia) - Expert in the Politics of Dissent, Political Activism, Whistleblowing (University of Wollongong)
Ms Cath Ringwood (Australia) - Former Palliative Care Nurse, now retired & living with Terminal Illness(es)
Rev Bill Crews (Australia) - CEO, Exodus Foundation & National Living Treasure
Professor Emeritus Malcolm Parker (Australia) - Legal Scholar in futile medicine, legal capacity & decision-making (University of Queensland)
Ms Anny Shaw - Daughter of Peter and Pat Shaw ('The Big Sleep' The Age 22 January 2016)*
It is with great regret that Anny Shaw withdrew from the conference program after recent brain tumour surgery. We wish Anny the very best for her recovery.
Dr Philip Nitschke (Australia/ Netherlands) - Director, Exit International (Conference closing address)
The conference dinner was held at the Old Melbourne Gaol with the 'lock up' experience! Brilliant night!
Special Guest: 'Whats Matter You' Legend Joe Dolce.