Some people suffer terrible deaths -- riven by uncontrollable pain, denied the dignity of choice, willing but unable to end life without the aid of others.
Yet deliberately to end a human life is, for many, always wrong -- an affront to nature, a crime against humanity, a sin against God.
When the terminally ill ask us to help them to die, then should a fatal act of compassion in every circumstance be proscribed by law?
Anthony John "Tony" Abbott is an Australian politician and the current Shadow Minister for Families, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs in the Australian federal opposition.
From 2004-2007 he was Minister for Health and Ageing in the Howard government, and Leader of the House of Representatives in the Federal Parliament. Since 1994, he has been the Member for Warringah, in New South Wales in the House of Representatives for the Liberal Party.
Professor Peter Baume is a former Federal Health Minister, a Liberal Senator and patron of the Voluntary Euthanasia Society of NSW.
Father Frank Brennan, AO, SJ, a Jesuit priest and lawyer, is Professor of Law in the Institute of Legal Studies, at the Australian Catholic University. He has also been the Director of the Uniya Jesuit Social Justice Centre in Sydney. He is the son of Sir Gerard Brennan, a former Chief Justice of the High Court of Australia.
He is an Officer of the Order of Australia (AO) for services to Aboriginal Australians (1995). With Pat Dodson he shared the inaugural ACFOA Human Rights Award (1996). His contact and ivolvement with Aboriginal Australians began early in his priestly ministry. In 1975 he worked in the inner Sydney parish of Redfern with priest activist Fr Ted Kennedy, where he also met and worked with Mum (Shirl) Smith among others who were founding Indigenous Australian legal, health and political initiatives.
In 1997, he was Rapporteur at the Australian Reconciliation Convention. In 1998 he was named a Living National Treasure during his involvement in the Wik debate and was appointed an Ambassador for Reconciliation by the Council for Aboriginal Reconciliation.
In 2001-02 he spent 18 months in East Timor as Director of the Jesuit Refugee Service and was awarded the Humanitarian Overseas Service Medal for that work.
On 10 December 2008 he was appointed as the Chairperson to the Australian Government's National Human Rights Consultation Committee. In 2009 this independent Committee will consult with the Australian community about the protection and promotion of human rights.
Senator Bob Brown has been a life-long activist and has become a leading voice for human rights in Australia. Earlier this year, his "Tibet Motion," calling for the Australian Government to take reasonable action against repression of Tibetan people by China, passed the Senate without dissent.
He has long been involved in conservation, and in 1986, he was shot at and assaulted during logging protests. He became the director of the Wilderness Society, which organised the blockade of the dam-works on Tasmania's wild Franklin River in 1982, where he was arrested and spent nineteen days in Risdon Prison.
While serving in the Tasmanian parliament, he successfully campaigned for a large increase in the protected wilderness areas. Bob Brown was a driving force in forming the Australian Greens in 1992.
He has spoken widely for the rights of the Tibetan people and against human rights abuses within China.
Dr. Maria Cigolini
Dr Maria Cigolini is a GP who has worked in the community, home, institutional settings and hopitals providing extended and palliative care for 20 years. She trained in Palliative Care at Melbourne University and is on the Medical Advisory Committee of Longueville Private Hospital in Sydney, which specialises in palliative and aged care.
She receives referrals for patients in the treatment phase of advanced cancers and diseases, as well as in the end of life phase, and has contributed cases for papers used in ethical discussions on end of life decision making. She is a clinical teacher in General Practice at the University of Sydney.
Dr. Simon Longstaff is Executive Director of St. James Ethics Centre. Simon spent five years studying and working as a member of Magdalene College, Cambridge. Having won scholarships to study at Cambridge, he read for the degrees of Master of Philosophy and Doctor of Philosophy. He was inaugural President of The Australian Association for Professional and Applied Ethics and is a Director of a number of companies. He is a Fellow of the World Economic Forum and a member of the International Advisory Committee of the Foreign Policy Association, based in New York.
Dr. Philip Nitschke
Dr Philip Nitschke, PhD, MBBS, BSc (Hons) is the Founder and Director of Exit International, the world's leading Voluntary Euthanasia and end-of-life choices information and advocacy organisation.
In 1996, Nitschke became the the first doctor in the world to administer a legal, lethal voluntary injection under the short-lived Rights of the Terminally Ill Act of the Northern Territory in 1996. Four of Nitschke's terminally ill patients used this law to end their suffering before the law was overturned in March 1997 by the Australian Parliament.