Victoria to vote on voluntary death
Victoria is moving ahead on a conscience vote for euthanasia.
Victoria would become the first state in Australia to legalise voluntary euthanasia if the vote passes parliament later this year.
An independent panel chaired by former Australian Medical Association chief Brian Owler handed down its recommendations late last week, which will be turned into a draft bill to be put to a vote before the end of the year.
The report outlines 66 recommendations and safeguards that Dr Owler says would create “the most conservative model for voluntary assisted dying in the world”.
The proposed system would allow Victorians who suffer from an incurable disease that is “advanced, progressive and will cause death” within 12 months, and whose pain cannot be relieved tolerably, would be eligible to end their lives.
Patients - who would have to be over 18, Victorian residents and have the decision-making capacity to choose to end their life - would be able to access lethal medication, stored in a locked box, within 10 days of making a request to a doctor.
The patient would be able to rescind their request at any time.
Further safeguards would include a requirement for patients to make three separate requests and be approved by two independent doctors. The panel also recommended setting up a voluntary assisted dying review board to review every assisted death.
Additionally, those doctors who are asked to assess a patient’s eligibility for assisted dying would have to have undergone specific training, and be allowed to conscientiously object to providing advice.
“Government will now consider this report and will respond in the next couple of weeks,” Victorian health minister, Jill Hennessy, said.
“Each and every single day I am approached by Victorians who are at the end of their life or who are caring for someone at the end of their life, for whom law reform can’t come soon enough,” she said.
“The vast majority of the mainstream support a change to the law.”
The recommendations include a call for the creation of new criminal offences with “severe penalties” for those who coerce others to end their lives.
Other states are making similar moves, with New South Wales debating a cross-party bill sponsored by five MPs, while Western Australia’s health minister has recently stated that he “supports voluntary euthanasia” and encouraged a private members’ bill be put forth.
A bill to legalise euthanasia in South Australia was defeated by only vote last year.