Advocates for and against voluntary euthanasia from across Australia have inundated an ACT parliamentary inquiry with a record number of submissions.
Almost 500 written submsisions were made to the committee investigating the end-of-life choices available in Canberra, some sharing their own heart-wrenching stories of watching family members suffer.
"With no opportunity to use assisted dying, my mother at the age of 93, deaf and almost blind,
chose to refuse food and drink to terminate her suffering," one woman wrote.
"It took over two weeks for her to die. No-one could make her change her mind - she could no longer tolerate days simply sitting in a chair waiting to die, unable even to complete her favourite daily crossword puzzle."
Another woman, who along with her 80-year-old husband was suffering from cancer, said she wanted the chance to "jump off the cliff while I've still got the health to climb it".
However Kath Woolf of the Euthanasia? No! ACT group said euthanasia was a "threat to the most vulnerable members in our society: the frail, the handicapped, the very old and those suffering mental illness, especially dementia".
"Vulnerable people who are sick, aged or depressed are inevitably at risk of consenting to be killed rather than getting the help they need," she wrote.
Doctors also appeared divided on the topic. The ACT division of the Australian Medical Association wrote "that doctors should not be involved in interventions that have as their primary intention the ending of a person’s life".
However their submission acknowledged doctors had divergent views on the issue, and laws on euthanasia were "a matter for society and government".
A submission from Doctors for Assisted Dying Choice said evidence from other jurisdictions proved "appropriately-worded" assisted dying laws "with accepted safeguards" could be instituted in the ACT without risk.
The ACT Right to Life Association said they believed euthanasia was "incompatible with the practice of good palliative care", and palliative care units in Belgium were "at risk of becoming houses of euthanasia".
It said the model adopted by Victoria was inappropriate for the ACT, as "qualified psychiatrists are in very short supply both in private and public practice" and the few remaining could be tied up with double-checking people were in the right frame of mind to choose to die.
Religious organisations also had varying views. The Catholic Archdiocese of Canberra and Goulburn said legalising euthanasia would put pressure on vulnerable people to request a lethal dose rather than burden their family or the health system with caring for them.
"Compassion involves walking with people in their suffering, attending to their needs and
helping them to live the rest of their lives in the best comfort possible," the Archdiocese said.
"It requires commitment and focus to understand a patient's fears and needs, so that they
can be addressed. Tragically, that commitment and focus will not always be there if there is
an option to end a patient's life."
The Tibetan Buddhist Society of Canberra said it did not disagree with voluntary assisted dying
"when done correctly", but encouraged the committee to look at barriers that prevented people choosing to die naturally like underinvestment in geriatric oncology, or issues around informed consent to medical treatment at the end of life.
It is currently a crime to help someone end their life in the ACT, with those found guilty facing 10 years in jail.
Like the Northern Territory, the federal parliament restricted the ACT from making laws on euthanasia 20 years ago.
The ACT government argues the people of the ACT should be allowed to choose whether or not to introduce a voluntary assisted dying scheme.
The committee will hold hearings on the issue, starting next week.