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Wednesday, 17 April 1985
Page: 1183

Senator WATSON(6.53) —Yesterday time limitations denied me the opportunity of finalising my remarks in support of the recommendation by the Human Rights Commission that heroin be made available to the terminally ill patients who cannot obtain effective relief through other treatment or drugs. I believe quite strongly that the terminally ill have the right to decide for themselves in their last hours how they wish their illness to be treated. In the final stages of illness, the physical condition, especially of cancer patients, may make the oral administration of drugs difficult or impossible. For an emaciated patient who has little muscle tissue left continual large doses of morphia by injections lead to more pain and more discomfort. Therefore, the procedure of using a small volume injection is clearly the most humane practice. However diamorphine hydrochloride or heroin is not seen as a panacea for terminal cancer but it should be available to those to whom it can be of some benefit in controlling pain.

A question not covered in the report, and which I believe must be examined in the future, is that of the right of total patient care for the terminally ill. It is the sort of care that is available only for hospice-type situations to enable the terminally ill to die with a degree of dignity. Therefore, I totally support the recommendations of the Human Rights Commission in relation to the right of terminally ill patients to have access to heroin for pain-taking purposes.

Debate (on motion by Senator Grimes) adjourned.