There’s room for compassion and dignity in NSW

The NSW Nurses and Midwives’ Association (NSWNMA) has joined a growing number of health and community organisations to support the introduction of voluntary assisted dying legislation in NSW.

In joining the NSW Voluntary Assisted Dying Alliance, NSWNMA General Secretary, Brett Holmes, said nurses and midwives were encouraging all parliamentarians to choose compassion over politics and support the law reform, as debate is due to start in the Lower House this week.

“For many years, our Association has supported a law being introduced to enable choice for people with a terminal illness and prevent them from suffering needlessly,” said Mr Holmes.

“As health professionals, our members have a duty of care to all patients and the majority agree that people with an incurable sickness should be afforded the choice to die with dignity.

“In a recent survey of almost 4,000 members, 86% supported voluntary assisted dying law reform in NSW, while 84% indicated they had professional experience providing care to terminally ill patients, and over half of those (53%) said they had been asked to help end a patients’ life.

“Some of our members, including those working in palliative care, have commented:

‘It is heart breaking and torturous to healthcare workers to force us to treat people that don’t want treatment, or to deny people dignity in dying.’

‘People have a right to make an informed choice. We should not prolong their suffering if they wish to die with peace and dignity.’

‘Nursing standards of practise stipulate that care should be specific to each unique individual and treatment should be offered as such. If I have a patient with specific requests for assisted dying, I do not feel it is fair that I cannot provide this due to others ethical/religious or political opinions. I want to provide the best care possible to each individual.’

‘I will 100 percent support any legislation which supports voluntary assisted dying, something which gives power back to the patient and supports them fully throughout their end of life and eases their suffering.’

‘I previously was against VAD as a Palliative Care nurse. I thought people could be managed with good palliative care, but sometimes it’s really hard to manage symptoms. As someone that works on the border and cares for Victorian patients, I have seen VAD happen and it has always been a good outcome.’

“We respect that voluntary assisted dying is a confronting topic for some and we’ve committed to support members who exercise their objection professionally, and this has been accommodated in the Voluntary Assisted Dying Bill 2021,” Mr Holmes said.

“This new legislation ensures people can access palliative care options and we’ll continue to insist appropriate resourcing, including access to suitably qualified nurses. We acknowledge Nurse Practitioners and registered nurses who choose to participate in voluntary assisted dying must be provided with education and protection for their work.

“On behalf of our members, we’ll continue to advocate for choice and compassion in relation to this important legislative reform.”

Join over 77,000 nurses and midwives in NSW by becoming a valued member today.

You’ll automatically become a member of the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation