Skip navigation

The right to die with dignity in the ACT

Community-endorsed Independent Senate candidate David Pocock will move a private Senator’s bill to restore the ACT’s right to legislate on voluntary assisted dying in his first weeks in the Senate, should he be elected.

David said the right for the ACT to make its own laws, especially on important issues like voluntary assisted dying, is something that the community has raised repeatedly.

“Tragically, for some in our community, this is not a debate that can wait,” David said.

“The people I’ve spoken to who have loved ones, or who are themselves, facing end of life choices, shouldn’t have to face moving interstate to access the full range of rights and dignities afforded to other Australians.

“That’s why I will make this a first order priority if elected.

“In 1997, Canberra was stripped of its right to introduce a voluntary assisted dying scheme through Liberal MP Kevin Andrews’ private member’s bill, which banned the territories from legislating on this matter.

“A quarter-century later and now the ACT and NT are the only jurisdictions not to have voluntary assisted dying laws in place or be actively considering legislation in this area.

“In 2017, we watched the Victorian Parliament debate this matter with incredible sensitivity and compassion, taking into account the support and concerns of faith groups, doctors, nurses, palliative care workers and the community-at-large.

“Canberrans should have the right to do the same, this is simply a matter of equity in giving the territories back the same rights as the states to consider this issue.”

“My bill will not be an invitation for the Parliament to debate voluntary assisted dying. That conversation should be for the people of the ACT alone. My bill will only invite the Parliament to consider whether the territories should continue to be regarded as second class citizens or whether they should have the autonomy to consider this issue for themselves.”

David said that like many Canberrans, and Australians, he personally supports the right of people who are terminally ill and experiencing unrelievable suffering to have a conversation with their doctor about assisted dying.

“I deeply appreciate the range of very personal and deeply held beliefs on this topic. That’s why it’s so important that we, as a community, have the right to respectfully and compassionately consider this issue for ourselves.

“The job of elected representatives is to advocate in support of the wishes of the community, not to make decisions for them based on personal preferences.”

David said he had spoken to hundreds of Canberrans who wanted to see this inequity addressed as a matter of urgency.

“Speaking out for the first time 39-year-old Samuel Whitsed, who has sadly been diagnosed with a rare stage four terminal cancer, is hoping voluntary assisted dying may be an option for him in the future.

“Samuel doesn’t want to suffer in his last months. He doesn’t want to move away from his home in order to access voluntary assisted dying in another state. He simply wants to be able to have a conversation with his doctor should his pain become unbearable at the end of his life.

“Sam Daleney who lost his beloved mother Linda “Linny” Delaney in 2019 has also come forward to share her story. Linny had been a nurse for 38 years, which included 20 years working in paediatrics. She was the sort of person who was always on her feet, working two jobs to earn a bit of extra income to provide for her family.

"Sam estimates that Linny touched the lives of 30,000 people in Canberra through her decades of service as a nurse. More than dedicated, she loved her job, so much so that even her plans for retirement included volunteer nursing. However, in 2012, at just 58-years-old, Linny was diagnosed with early onset dementia.

“As a nurse, Linny knew from the moment she was diagnosed what was ahead of her. She knew there was no treatment, no cure and that she would experience immense suffering. She didn’t want it, and would speak to Sam about how she wished she had the option to die with dignity on her terms.

“As Sam recalls it, it was those final days that were the hardest, in watching his mother succumb to this vicious disease in pain, and in a way that she would have thought undignified.

“These are just a couple of the pleas I have heard from fellow Canberrans for us to do better on this difficult issue.”

According to recent polling conducted by the Australia Institute, 76% of Australians agree that people with terminal illnesses experiencing unrelievable suffering, and who ask to die, should be allowed to receive the assistance of doctors to do so.

The same polling revealed that 76% of Australians believe that territory governments should have the right to consider voluntary assisted dying in their own jurisdictions.

Polling data from National Seniors Australia reveals that an even greater proportion of older Australians in the ACT (87.4%) agree with voluntary assisted dying.

David’s private Senator's bill would seek to amend the Australian Capital Territory (Self-Government) Act 1988 and the Northern Territory (Self-Government) Act 1978 to remove the prohibitions on the ACT and NT governments from legislating on voluntary assisted dying.

Continue Reading

Read More