It’s a controversial debate that has divided Australians for years, but after filming hard-hitting scenes for a new TV series on euthanasia, Noni Hazlehurst has now revealed her own thoughts on assisted suicide – and why she believes people should have the right to choose.
The actress, 65, has been busy filming a new 10-part Foxtel series The End alongside The Missing‘s Frances O’Connor and The Crown‘s Dame Harriet Walter in recent months, focusing on three generations of a family who are faced with difficult decisions on voluntary assisted dying.
While Connor plays a senior registrar specialising in palliative care medicine, and passionately opposed to euthanasia, her on-screen mother Edie Henley (Walter) is just as passionate about her right to die.
Asked if the show reflects both sides of the euthanasia debate well, Noni told Starts at 60 in an exclusive interview: “I think it does. It presents both sides but it also presents the human side, not just the intellectual debate.
“It’s the story of a family and the people in their orbit. I think it’s something that will be appreciated by people of all ages. It covers three generations of one family who are all struggling with their own issues, in a very real way. It was a joy to do.”
While euthanasia remains a controversial topic of debate in Australia, Noni admitted that she believes everyone should have the right to choose what happens to their lives and their bodies.
Revealing her own views on voluntary assisted dying, Noni added: “I’ve never been able to get past the fact that if we put our animals out of their misery why wouldn’t we allow humans the same privilege?
“I do think it’s an intensely personal decision, [the] same as abortion, and I don’t think anyone has the right to legislate over somebody’s fate in that way. I just don’t understand why that has to be an issue.
“And certainly when you see examples of the hypocrisy of many of the people in the Catholic Church towards keeping people in terror and fear of breaking the Catholic Church’s rules, and then we see that behind the scenes there’s been such appalling crimes committed towards the very people that Jesus said we should look after, children, it just renders this kind of overarching sense that we have the right to dictate what you should do with your life or your body ridiculous.”
Many countries have legalised euthanasia or physician-assisted deaths, including Canada, the Netherlands, Switzerland, and some states in the United States.
Currently, Victoria is the only state in Australia to have passed voluntary assisted dying laws with the legislation set to come into effect in 2019. It will offer a choice to competent adults with a terminal illness and six months or less to live. For those dying of neurodegenerative diseases, such as MND or MS, the time frame is extended to twelve months or less to live.
Western Australia will introduce a bill next year to allow a conscious vote for MPs to allow voluntary assisted dying. Queensland has established a review to consider voluntary assisted dying to report back in November 2019.
South Australia’s last bill in 2016 was defeated by a single vote in its lower house of Parliament. The Northern Territory and ACT need the Federal Senate to overturn the Euthanasia Laws Act 1997 which prohibited territories from legalising VAD.
Noni is also celebrating the release of the final series of her much-loved show A Place To Call Home on DVD this month, having bid farewell to her character Elizabeth in series six. The DVD is out now.