Dear fellow PwMS in my letter this month I want to start by speaking about a very important piece of legislation passed by the Victorian Parliament late in 2017. The Dying with Dignity legislation which created the potential for someone suffering from an incurable condition, causing enduring and unbearable suffering, might choose to die with dignity. This was an important piece of legislation which was supported by your People with MS committee.
I hope none of you ever feels inclined to use this provision but it is comforting to know that it exists. Some opponents claimed it would enable people to pressure others into going because they were a burden. But this is not true it is all about preventing extreme suffering. It will not assist people to commit suicide because of disability. It is entirely about enabling a person who is dying and suffering from an incurable condition which is causing enduring and unbearable suffering to die with dignity.
I am disabled; I have had Multiple Sclerosis for more than 25 years. I need a wheel chair and walking aids to get about. If anyone thinks any the less of me because of my disabilities I regard that as their problem, not mine. I believe I can and do make a worthwhile contribution to society. Never-the-less I am pleased to see legislation providing for voluntary assisted dying legislation, not because I anticipate using it, but because I believe it is inhumane to force someone to go on living against their wishes when it is known that they are living with unendurable and incurable suffering.
Secondly I want to discuss a call by the Federal Parliamentary Senate for an enquiry into “the need for regulation of mobility scooters, also known as motorised wheelchairs”. This seemingly innocuous request has the potential to limit the use of mobility scooters and hence limit the opportunities available to people for whom their scooter is essential to their independence. I believe the call for an enquiry was in response to a politician whose wife was struck by a scooter on a footpath in Sydney. So it seems likely the proponents will be seeking to impose restrictions on the speed, size or areas of use of scooters
If the use of a mobility scooter is important to you I suggest you try to meet with your federal senator and make him aware of how important your scooter is and how negatively it would affect you if your use of it was to be restricted.
Finally let me remind you that our annual Living with MS conference is coming up very soon, on Saturday May 5th. We have three exceptional speakers and it will only cost $10 to attend. The speakers will be Simon McKeon, currently chancellor of Monash University. Simon has lived with a diagnosis of MS for a long time, but despite this has had a stellar career in business and finance. This has included having been the founding chairman of MS Research Australia, and being named Australian of the Year in 2011 and awarded the Order of Australia in 2012. His will be an inspirational talk about achievement despite MS.
Our next speaker will be George Jelinek, well known to us as author of “Overcoming MS”. He was professor of emergency medicine before MS forced him to give this up. However, he used his knowledge and experience when writing this book for the benefit of others with MS. He is now Professor and Head of the Neuroepidemiology Unit (NEU) within the Melbourne School of Population and Global Health at The University of Melbourne. He will talk about how to live well despite MS.
Finally we will hear from Stephen Jolly manager of the employment support service at MS. He will talk about the products the service offers and how it can help someone with MS stay in their current employment or help unemployed PwMS find employment.