ASSISTED DYING: The Victorian Government start today to try to reach an agreement on assisted dying legislation.
ASSISTED DYING: The Victorian Government start today to try to reach an agreement on assisted dying legislation. ThinkStock

Controversial euthanasia bill on the table in Victoria

VICTORIA is on the cusp of leading the new charge towards legalised euthanasia in Australia as its lower house starts today the debate on an assisted dying law.

The debate is expected to be highly emotional and force many of the house's 87 members to finally make their stance known.

There are plenty of voices for and plenty against the state legislation which will be the first of its kind since the Northern Territory adopted the Rights of the Terminally Ill Act in 1995 which was over-ruled by the Federal Government nine months later.

The Victorian legislation is being led by Premier Daniel Andrews.

"A better way for many, many Victorians whose pain and suffering can not be alleviated by palliative care, people who are denied a dignified end to their life, people who all too often the coroner tells us in the most graphic terms are taking matters into their own hands and dying lonely, violent deaths," Premier Andrews told Sky News.

Premier Andrews has outlined his support for the Bill based on his own experience of watching his father's difficult death.

"You can't ignore the fact that so many people, because they're denied a more dignified death, a more peaceful option, they're having to choose lonely, violent options," Premier Andrews told ABC News.

"And I just don't think that's a choice that anyone should have to make."

Counter arguments are coming from within the ruling Labor party, led by Deputy Premier James Merlino, who is looking to block the Bill's passage through the lower house.

"You need to look just at the medical profession; the AMA's national position is against this legislation," Mr Merlino told a press conference.

"Palliative Care Victoria - the men and women who care for us at our end of life stages - they are opposed to this legislation."

Vocal euthanasia 'yes' advocate and Go Gentle Australia director Andrew Denton believes the proposed legislation will create more protections for the vulnerable and terminally ill.

"We have a dangerously unregulated system where the (sic) enquiry found, doctors practice unlawful assisted dying despite is prohibition and despite its respective liability for serious crimes and this is happening without regulation, without support and without transparency or accountability, and from the evidence we see, sometimes without consent," Mr Denton told a Go Gentle function on Sunday.

The proposed legislation contains a request and assessment process for access to voluntary assisted dying. It also includes the establishment of a dedicated oversight body and protections.

The safeguards protect are expected to protect the vulnerable from exploitation and coercion. New criminal offences will also be created to protect people from abuse.

The government has stated the safeguards include - 

  • Only adults with decision making capacity, who are suffering and are in the final weeks and months of life, with an outer limit of 12 months, can access the scheme
  •  A person may only access voluntary assisted dying if they meet strict eligibility criteria, make three clear requests and have two independent medical assessments that determine they are eligible
  • The request must always be initiated by the person themselves, with doctors who raise the issue subject to professional misconduct investigations.
  • The scheme will be self-administered, with doctor administration only available to those who cannot physically administer or digest the medication themselves.

More than 1,000 Victorians, both public and stakeholders, contributed comments on the draft Bill which was prepared under the offices of the Minister for Health Jill Hennessy and Attorney-General Martin Pakula.

"The safeguards make Victoria's model the safest, and most conservative, in the world," Premier Andrews said in a media statement.

"The key to this framework is that it is strictly voluntary and self-administered, with doctor administration only available to those who cannot physically administer or digest the medication themselves.

If the bill makes it to the upper house and it is passed, there will still be an 18-month period before anyone can have access to voluntary assisted dying in Victoria. 


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