POLITICS

Former Prime Minister Paul Keating Weighs Into Assisted-Dying Debate

Former Prime Minister Paul Keating called assisted dying "an unacceptable departure in our approach to human existence".

19/10/2017 8:50 PM AEDT | Updated 19/10/2017 8:52 PM AEDT
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Paul Keating has weighed into Victoria's controversial assisted-dying bill as debate in the state's parliament drags out.

Former prime minister Paul Keating has weighed into the debate on Victoria's controversial assisted-dying laws, saying allowing patients to kill themselves is unacceptable.

While Victoria's parliament wades through hundreds of disputed amendments amid a looming government deadline for a vote, Mr Keating is urging against crossing what he calls an "ethical threshold".

"What matters is that under Victorian law there will be people whose lives we honour and those we believe are better off dead," he wrote in Fairfax's Sydney Morning Herald on Thursday.

"No matter what justifications are offered for the bill, it constitutes an unacceptable departure in our approach to human existence and the irrevocable sanctity that should govern our understanding of what it means to be human."

The state government hopes to get its divisive bill through the lower house by the end of the week.

But line-by-line scrutiny of the proposed laws and hundreds of proposed amendments from opponents has stalled progress.

The bid to introduce assisted dying for the terminally ill survived its first threat on Wednesday night - an amendment by Deputy Premier James Merlino which would have halted immediate further consideration of the bill.

But debate spilled over to insults within the government, with Health Minister Jill Hennessy calling Mr Merlino a "c***" in a text message sent to him by mistake the same night, multiple parliamentary sources confirm.

Premier Daniel Andrews said he would not support any of the amendments.

"This is a good bill. It is the product of a long and considered process involving experts," he told reporters on Thursday.

"I don't reflect negatively on anyone who moves amendments. That is their right.

"(But) many of them will be moved by people, who even if those amendments were successful, would not vote for the bill."

Ms Hennessy said the debate had been emotional, but had shown parliamentarians to be authentic and vulnerable.

"It's really hard to talk about death at the best of times but to debate significant reform about giving people a better death is really challenging but it can bring out the best in our parliamentarians," she told reporters.

"We're going to keep fighting hard to try and bring this home."

Parliament is expected to sit late into Thursday night and may return on Friday - usually not a sitting day - if needed.

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