Terminally ill mother asks for NSW euthanasia bill support

A terminally ill mother is calling for the public to support a bill to legalise euthanasia in NSW.

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Annie Gabrielides. who suffers from motor neurone disease, shared her story in state parliament as an exposure draft of the legislation was released on Tuesday.

The bill would give access to medically-assisted euthanasia to people over 25 years old who are expected to die within a year.

The draft laws have cross-party support and will be introduced to the New South Wales parliament in coming months.

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The bill includes safeguards, like a 48 hour cooling off period and the requirement for two medical professionals to sign off on the final decision.

Ms Gabrielides, who was a speech pathologist and a teacher for 30 years, was diagnosed in July 2016 and now can no longer speak and has lost control of her hands.

She’s launched an online petition calling for the public to support the bill.

“Ten months ago I only had a mild speech slur, now it’s all gone,” she said through an assistance device on her iPad.

“Every morning I wake up and wait to discover what else I have lost. Some days it’s something small, like being able to shampoo my own hair, pick my own rogue hairs, while other days it’s something big like steadiness on my feet, or having someone cut my food so that I can eat.”

Ms Gabrielides will soon be in wheelchair and won’t be able to move or eat. But what she fears most is suffering a horrible death.

“I want an option when I can’t move or eat or breathe,” she said.

One of those behind the cross-party bill, Nationals MP Trevor Khan says current laws don’t stop people from trying to end their lives.

“Is it fair and reasonable that a person has to choose to starve themselves to death to bring an end to their suffering?” he said.

“In my view that’s an appalling choice that’s presented to people now. What we want to do is, if they’re making that choice, to make their road out easier.”

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Catholic Bishop of Sydney’s Broken Bay diocese Peter Comensoli believes it’s a dangerous move and warns it could be a slippery slope.

“There’s all sorts of changes that will come about,” he said.

“The doctor-patient relationship changes, our attitude towards the vulnerable changes, the government and the medical profession get into the business of killing. All that changes with this legislation.”

Bishop Comensoli said the bill could undermine family relationships and change attitudes about helping people as they’re dying.

And he fears it would lead to Australia following countries such as Holland, Belgium and Canada, where euthanasia is legal.

“Belgium for instance now allows children as young as 12 to be euthanised,” he said.

“It is not because they are necessarily dying. In Holland there is no longer a requirement that someone be terminally ill. This is already happening.”

Voluntary euthanasia and assisted suicide are currently illegal in all Australian states and territories.

A bill legalising euthanasia was passed in the Northern Territory in 1995, but was overturned by the federal government two years later.

That’s unlikely to happen if the New South Wales bill passes because, unlike territories, the Commonwealth is rarely able to intervene in state laws.

Watch: Dateline – Allow Me To Die 0:00 Share