Open letter on voluntary assisted dying

25 November 2020

The ANMF (SA Branch) today published a full-page open letter in The Advertiser calling on our state politicians to pass the voluntary assisted dying Bill when it is introduced in Parliament.

“The impact on nurses and carers at the bedside of the terminally ill is all too raw. We are the ones who hear their cries for an end to the suffering, powerless to act, heartbreaking as it is to witness,’’ the letter states.

Read the letter below.


The Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation (SA Branch) has been actively involved in the voluntary assisted dying (VAD) debate, with the overwhelming support of the majority of our members, for more than five years.

Public polling too continues to show overwhelming support for VAD.

And yet, still, terminally ill people in South Australia are forced to endure nightmarish, drawn-out deaths, despite their pleas, and without a legal and humane option to end their suffering.

Often the terminally ill, out of sheer desperation, take it upon themselves to end their lives, with often horrific results.

Loved ones too are left to suffer, forced to watch a terminally ill mother or father fade away in excruciating pain. Many surviving family members are traumatised by this terrible, completely avoidable ordeal.

The impact on nurses and carers at the bedside of the terminally ill is all too raw. We are the ones who hear their cries for an end to the suffering, powerless to act, heartbreaking as it is to witness.

Our great palliative care can only do so much - it is NOT the solution. Sadly, it cannot deal with everyone’s pain.

VAD does not in any way seek to replace our world-class palliative care. By passing this law you are providing people with an option when palliative care is unable to meet their needs and wishes. We believe that continued funding to ensure there is a well-resourced palliative care service for all South Australians is also vital to ensure that people can live their final days however they feel is best for them.

On 17 November 2016, the ‘Death With Dignity’ Bill was defeated in the South Australian Parliament by a single vote.

The following year Victoria became the first Australian state to legalise voluntary assisted dying, the law taking effect in 2019.

Western Australia’s voluntary assisted dying law reform is expected to come into effect next year.

South Australia’s legislation will be modelled on the Victorian voluntary assisted dying framework which is extremely conservative in its application and described as one of the safest voluntary assisted dying schemes worldwide.

A recent poll has shown more than 85 per cent of our members, who are nurses, midwives and personal care workers, are supportive of the introduction of VAD legislation that is based on the Victorian framework.

In countries where voluntary assisted dying is legal there are a raft of safeguards in place to protect the integrity and humane intent of such legislation. There is no evidence to back up the oft-cited ‘slippery slope’ argument, that legalising euthanasia could somehow lead to abuse of the system.

As nurses and carers who have experienced first-hand the plight and the cries of the terminally ill and their loved ones, we ask that our politicians, the very people elected to reflect the will of the people, honour the wishes of the overwhelming majority – and, most importantly, those who continue to languish in agony and despair, deprived of their right to die with dignity.

Please listen to the community and vote in favour of VAD when it is introduced in Parliament.

P.S. If you are in support of the proposed VAD legislation, contact your MP to tell them how you feel.