The death bus rolled into Newcastle last week, setting up shop in Hunter shopping centres and asking passers-by to add their signature to a petition to legalise assisted suicide and euthanasia in New South Wales.
And while they celebrated the 2,000 signatures they collected on their petition as a victory, those writing in and to the Newcastle Herald had a different story to tell.
The Letters to the Editor page was filled with opposition to state-sanctioned death.
One reader expressed concerns about whether economic decisions would factor into what “choices” are available with serious and terminal illnesses in a post-euthanasia society:
“My concern is that in time palliative care will not be an option and people with serious illnesses, not just terminal illnesses, will be expected to die.
“This could be an attractive option for governments as euthanasia would be a lot cheaper than palliative care.”
Another reader challenged myths about palliative care that are told by euthanasia supporters:
“Palliative Care Australia says it is a myth that pain is an inevitable part of dying, and that symptoms, including vomiting, can be managed.”
Yet another wrote:
“Suffering in the last days of a person's life must be stopped and I am still fully convinced that effective palliative care will remove all discomfort from a terminal person during the last days of their life.
“Dying with dignity must be with the use of all the palliative care capacity that our medical professionals can offer in the last days of any person's life.”
People are keenly aware of what one reader called the “correlation between inadequate palliative care and demands for VAD.”
But it wasn’t only the readers of the paper that raised concerns about the push for legalised killing. The editorial in the same edition also raised key concerns about the potential for the exploitation of the vulnerable:
“While "traditional" morality is demonstrably at the centre of most opposition to euthanasia law reform, two other worries stand out.
“One is the obvious potential for abuse, especially of the old and the frail.
“The other, more amorphous, concern, relates to the boundaries of euthanasia: who should have access, and for what reasons?
“And would legal protection for voluntary assisted dying lead to people opting out of situations from which they may recover?”
Lack of palliative care, a mischaracterisation of its effectiveness, the potential for abuse, the expansion of the categories of those eligible for lethal drugs… these are concerns that are often dismissed by those on the euthanasia bus (or bandwagon, as the case may be), but Hunter residents weren’t fooled.