5 May 2021
The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: I welcome the opportunity to speak on this important reform—voluntary assisted dying legislation. I thank the Hon. Kyam Maher for putting this on the agenda and for his leadership on this issue. This has been a long-term priority for the Greens, and members will be aware that Mark Parnell moved his own bill back in 2008 and again in 2010. Of course, this is the first time that I have had the opportunity to put my support for this reform on the public record, so I want to make a few remarks about that. I will be exercising my vote in favour of this bill.
Like many in our community, my support for this reform is based on my lived experience and my family's experience. My nanna, Norma, died more than a decade ago, after a long-term battle with Alzheimer's disease. She had the disease for more than 20 years. In her final years she had no quality of life at all. Her mother, my great-grandmother, also died of Alzheimer's disease, and I know, from when my nanna was in good health, this was not a death she wanted for herself. She talked often about not wanting to face the same death that her mother faced. During her final years she was in a vegetative state. She was in obvious distress. She was unable to eat without assistance. Her death was prolonged and it was certainly one that was without dignity.
Obviously, I recognise that the bill before us will not deal with people in my grandmother's situation. She would not have been able to provide consent. But seeing her suffering, prolonged as it was over many years, has solidified my belief that as legislators we need to do what we can to give people choice in their final days.
I will be exercising my vote in favour of the bill for all those who I have loved who have not had the right to die with dignity and all those South Australians who have not only had to endure the loss of a loved one but have also seen them die in prolonged suffering. No-one should have to endure that in modern Australia. My thoughts are with them tonight. It may be too late for us to help them but we can do something to help other South Australians in the future.
I want to acknowledge all those who have shared their experiences in recent days. These matters of life and death are always difficult to talk about. In particular, I was saddened to read the news in The Advertiser about Ceara Rickard's health. Ceara is somebody I went to university with. I remember her from my Flinders University days. To quote Ceara:
These laws are not about choosing death, but giving people a death that works for them when they are…dying and death is near.
As Ceara says:
The choice of whether I die is not one that I get to make. But how and when I die can be a choice and it is one that I should be free to make.
Those are her words. I really hope that this parliament respects Ceara's choice and the choice of all other South Australians to end their lives with dignity.