When she moved from Melbourne to Sydney, Siobhan O’Sullivan did not consider what it would mean for the way she died.
But since being diagnosed with terminal ovarian cancer in mid-2020, the 48-year-old thinks about that decision a lot.
“To think that if I had remained in Melbourne, I could have access to voluntary assisted dying is horrible,” she told the Guardian.
“But my support networks are here, my family’s here, so for me to relocate is impractical. I shouldn’t have to do that either.”
O’Sullivan is among a chorus of voices hoping their long campaign to legalize voluntary assisted dying ends this week after a debate and vote in the New South Wales upper house.
Siobhan O’Sullivan has ovarian cancer, urging the government to pass the voluntary assisted dying bill, so people like her don’t have to suffer in their final days. #nswpol pic.twitter.com/pN1KsMhgXj
— Tamsin Rose (@tamsinroses) May 17, 2022
If passed, NSW will become the last state in the country to allow terminally sick people to choose when they die.
While opponents of the bill have proposed dozens of amendments, including changes to access for terminally ill people in aged care, supporters and campaigners remain hopeful and willing to work with anyone who still has genuine concerns.
But the independent MP for Sydney, Alex Greenwich, who introduced the bill in 2020, said some of the proposals put forward this week were cruel, noting there had already been an extensive debate in the lower house where many of the issues had been dealt with.
“All of a sudden, we’re seeing amendments to deny access to people to voluntary assisted dying in their home if their home is in aged care … that is cruel and unnecessary,” he said.
He and the Labor MLC Adam Searle, who has carriage of the bill in the upper house, said they were confident they had a blocking majority and that there was consensus to deal with the matter this week.
The founder of the advocacy group Go Gentle Australia, Andrew Denton, said NSW needed to act to bring the rights of people in the state into line with people living elsewhere.
“(This) is the last parliamentary chamber in the last state in Australia to consider legalizing voluntary assisted dying,” Denton said.
“The people of this state don’t die any differently to other Australians.”
He spoke alongside Cathy Barry, who has campaigned for assisted death after her brother Tom died a slow and painful death from a facial tumor. She wants the law to pass so that no one else has to go through what he and his family had to.
“He died in excruciating pain, and it was a prolonged period of terrible suffering,” Barry said.
“Just as my brother begged for mercy when he was dying, I’m now begging the members of the upper house of NSW parliament … to vote on and pass that legislation.”
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Earlier in the day, the deputy leader of the NSW Nationals, Bronnie Taylor, said there was no excuse for deliberately hostile amendments and called for the bill to be passed as is.
“The community has spoken on this issue,” Taylor told Nine. “There is no reason to delay it anymore.”
The bill passed the lower house last year with 53 votes to 36 after dozens of passionate speeches from serving politicians.
TIf amendments are accepted, the bill must return to the lower house for a final vote which could happen as early as Wednesday.
In Australia, the crisis support service Lifeline is on 13 11 14. In the UK, Samaritans can be contacted at 116 123. In the US, the suicide prevention lifeline is 1-800-273-8255.