FOR some, the passing of the Voluntary Assisted Dying Bill 2017, in the Lower House of the Victorian Parliament last week heralded the creation of a ‘slippery slope’.
For others, it was a moment of joy.
The legislation passed without amendment, something that infuriated the Opposition during the protracted debate, as those opposed to the Bill tried to pass more than a dozen clauses and hundreds of amendments.
This historic Bill is the result of more than two years of consultation and engagement with Members of Parliament, the community, health, palliative care and legal sectors. “This is a historic day for our State. We are one step closer to getting this done, but there is more work to do,” Health Minister Jill Hennessy said.
“This week we have seen incredibly powerful contributions from all sides of the debate as Members of Parliament have shared their personal experiences and given this issue the consideration it deserves.
“This vote brings us closer to giving Victorians with terminal illnesses the choice they deserve at the end of their lives.”
The Parliament’s Legal and Social Issues Committee’s Inquiry into end of life choices heard from more than 1000 people, both in person and through the submission process, and the Expert Ministerial Advisory Panel heard from more than 300 stakeholders throughout their consultations.
According to the Government, the legislation passed by the Legislative Assembly delivers on the safe and compassionate framework designed by the Ministerial Advisory Panel, chaired by former AMA president and neurosurgeon Brian Owler. They further claim that with 68 safeguards built into it, the framework is the safest, and most conservative in the world, and will provide Victorians with a terminal illness genuine choice at the end of their lives.
The Voluntary Assisted Dying Bill passed 47 votes to 37, after a conscience vote. The majority of Labor MPs backed the Bill, along with two Greens, two independents and some of Coalition MPs that didn’t include Member for Mildura Peter Crisp, who voted against the Bill.
Should the Bill be passed into law, people over 18, suffering from a terminal disease and in acute pain with only one year to live, will potentially be able to access lethal drugs.
Patients would have to make three requests, and see specially-trained doctors, while coercing someone to seek a medically-assisted death would become a crime.
In most cases, estimated to be about 150 a year, the lethal dose would be self-administered, however, where patients cannot administer the drug, doctors could be involved.
Premier Daniel Andrews is proud of the efforts of Minister Hennessy – one of the driving forces behind the Bill.
“This has been talked about for a very, very long time, and I think we have brought a seriousness and respectfulness to this debate that I think is very important,” he said. The legislation now needs to pass in the Upper House where Labor falls short of having control of the 40-member chamber.
For the Bill to ‘get-up’ it will need 21 votes that will have to come from Labor, the Greens, Independents, and the Opposition Coalition members in favour of the Bill.
The outcome of the final vote is expected to be determined in about two weeks, and if passed, would see the law take effect in 2019.