Euthanasia. Death with a happy ending

One of my favourite people is an old boyfriend’s mum, Marijke, a stuttering Dutch psychologist, heart of gold, body of a Veronica and a penchant for buying old furniture, painting it beige and re-upholstering it in calico.

Meeting her in my teens was a revelation. The women I knew mostly fell into the category of teacher, housewife, mother, nurse or tuckshop lady rather than fiercely independent, free-thinking European woman who cooked lentils, travelled the world and danced to her own tune. Clothes optional.

I caught up with Marijke a while ago to meet her new man, Rene, a Dutch cardiologist. The little boys and I rolled up to a breakfast by the sea. Whole-wheat pancakes, bowls of stewed fruit the colour of jewels, fluffy clouds of yoghurt, steaming cups of coffee and light streaming in. At the moment I was reflecting on what a healthy sight it was, Rene pushed his chair back and lit a cigar. At the table.

I love Europeans.

He turned to me and said: ”Cathy, did Marijke tell you how we met?”

”No, she didn’t.”

He took a drag of his cigar and said: ”I killed her father.”

Rene had legally euthanised Marijke’s father in the Netherlands, where euthanasia is legal. A death with a happy ending.

I thought of Marijke and Rene when I addressed the Dying With Dignity Rally on the steps of Parliament House last week.

Passionate supporters huddled together on the steps like many Melburnians past. I hoped this was the last rally for euthanasia ever, but infuriatingly I knew it wouldn’t be. Despite the need for our laws to catch up to reflect social progress and our community values, 85 per cent of people support voluntary euthanasia.

I was disappointed by the turnout – about 150 people. Some 10,000 rocked up to the Save Live Australian Music Rally when they closed The Tote. But the collective age at the Dying With Dignity Rally was probably twice that of the Slam Rally. Perhaps it’s a good sign – maybe people were thinking: ”I don’t have to turn up to a rally for voluntary euthanasia. Clearly it’s going to happen; they legalised abortion.”

WAKE UP everybody! Politicians know 85 per cent of us want euthanasia. BUT WE DON’T HAVE IT! Shirtfront your local member and say: ”Pull your finger out, sunshine, and speak up. Because you’re just The Honourable Member For People Dying in Pain.”

Dogs can be legally and peacefully put to sleep, (sure, many of them we’re more fond of than our relatives). Other countries safely administer voluntary euthanasia, so don’t give me any bull about it being dangerous or us not being responsible. We all know doctors, thanks to the benign conspiracy between the legal system, the police and the Victorian government, euthanise people every day.

So why is it illegal? Blame religion. Yet 85 per cent of people support euthanasia, while only 9 per cent of people go to church. The majority of people with faith believe in voluntary euthanasia.

I don’t care what you believe, but we all must fight for a secular state to stop religion influencing our policy. And I don’t care who you vote for, if you believe that Jesus was sent to Earth to die for our sins, clearly Tony Abbott was sent to Earth to live for our sins. Not having access to voluntary euthanasia is an infringement of our rights. Article Five of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights: ”No one shall be subjected to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.” I would proudly, safely, euthanise a loved one who needed it. And happily be fined, prosecuted or incarcerated as a result.

Turn up to the next euthanasia rally. Because there are people lying in hospital, at home and in palliative care who would streak down Bourke Street to shake up this mediaeval mentality of a few. Otherwise we may all have to become veterinarians so we have access to Nembutal.

”What do we want? To die. When do we want it? When we choose.”

That’s me, attempting to sex up euthanasia. Everyone deserves a happy ending. Not just Marijke and Rene.

Catherine Deveny is a Dying With Dignity Victoria Ambassador.

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