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Victoria To Introduce Assisted Dying Laws In 2017

"Each and every member of my team will have a conscience vote," Premier Daniel Andrews said on Thursday.

08/12/2016 2:46 PM AEDT | Updated 08/12/2016 3:17 PM AEDT
Fairfax
Victoria will consider assisted dying laws in the second half of 2017.

The Victorian government will introduce voluntary euthanasia laws in the second half of 2017.

Premier Daniel Andrews announced a panel of experts tasked with deciding how best to craft assisted dying laws, following a cross party parliamentary investigation recommended the state set up a framework to give some terminally ill patients the ability to peacefully end their lives.

In June Victoria's Inquiry into end of life choices final report recommended the state legalise assisted dying under strict conditions. If passed the laws would be the first in the country since the Federal Government squashed a Northern Territory euthanasia law in 1996.

Andrews said on Thursday the bill will be available for debate in the second half of the year.

"For my part, each and every member of my team will have a conscience vote," he told reporters on Thursday.

"I am confident each and every member of Parliament are search their conscience, search their personal values, search their personal experiences to make a decision they believe is the right decision for the future."

Fairfax Media/Paul Jeffers
"I thought it was wrong" -- Victorian premier Daniel Andrews has said he was very angry when the Commonwealth Parliament overturned the Northern Territory's Bill in 1996. This photo is from November 12, and shows Andrews at the Alp state conference.

Most of the report's 49 recommendations, which came after the inquiry considered more than 1000 submissions, have already been accepted by the government.

The Australian Medical Association (AMA) in a statement said it opposed physician-assisted death. The medical body, which acknowledged community views are disparate, also warned any legislation must provide certainty and legal safeguards for patients and doctors.

Dr Bernadette Tobin from the Plunkett Centre for Ethics said on Thursday any bill to legalise voluntary euthanasia would be unstable.

Referencing reports a man in the Netherlands was recently granted permission to die because of his alcohol addiction, Dr Tobin warned the laws could lead to expanded criteria.

"Once you make this a medical benefit there will be a demand from people who don't qualify," she told the ABC.

"They will say 'why can't we have it too' and families of people, people who can't ask for it themselves."

Andrews, who lost his father Bob to cancer in April, said earlier this week the experience had influenced his view.

"If you're going to do your job properly you have to listen to people, and you have to learn from your own personal experiences," he told reporters on Tuesday.

"What we've gone through this year, every family goes through at some point."

Proposed assisted dying framework

  1. The Person: is 18 years and over, with decision making capacity about their own medical treatment, or must be referred to a psychiatrist for assessment if their decision making capacity is in question due to mental illness.
  2. The Condition: at the end of life, in final weeks or months of life, and suffering from a serious, incurable condition causing enduring and unbearable physical suffering (suffering as a result of mental illness only does not satisfy the eligibility criteria.)
  3. The Request: must come from the patient themselves and cannot be included in an advance care directive. It must be properly informed, completely voluntary, free of coercion.
  4. The primary and secondary doctor must each properly inform the patient:
  • of their diagnosis and prognosis, as well as the treatment options available to them
  • of palliative care and its likely results
  • that they may rescind their assisted dying request at any time
  • Must repeat three times the probable result and potential risks of taking the lethal drug.
  • Three part request: verbal, a formal written request signed by two independent witnesses, and a final verbal request

Currently euthanasia is illegal in Australia. However Victoria is not the only state wrestling with a viable voluntary euthanasia law. South Australia has made 15 passes at a voluntary euthanasia law, its most recent last month.

In 1995 Australia became the first country in the world to have assisted dying laws in the form of the Northern Territory's 1995 Terminally Ill Act -- the law was federally overturned a year later.

Since then there have been there have been at least 29 attempts in various state parliaments to introduce assisted dying laws.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said on Thursday he did not support voluntary euthanasia.

"If I was voting in a state parliament, which obviously I wouldn't be, as a matter of conscience I would not vote for euthanasia but it is very much a conscience issue," Mr Turnbull told radio station 3AW.

In August former Enough Rope host and Go Gentle Campaigner Andrew Denton warned that by failing to properly examine the claim that no safeguard can be devised to protect the vulnerable, politicians were failing instead of protecting the people they represent.

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