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Devil in the detail of assisted dying bill

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November 27, 2017

NSW Member for Murray-elect Austin Evans said he didn’t expect people from Moama and Mathoura to cross the border to take advantage of the assisted dying bill.

Martin Szakal and Peter Walsh at the GMCU Allianz Campaspe Murray Business Awards. Photo by Luke Hemer.

VICTORIA is set to become the first state to legalise assisted dying for the terminally ill after historic voluntary euthanasia laws passed Victoria’s Upper House last week.

After a 28-hour marathon sitting on Wednesday, the bill passed, with some amendments, by 22 votes to 18, despite opposition from conservative MPs.

NSW Member for Murray-elect Austin Evans said he didn’t expect people from Moama and Mathoura to cross the border to take advantage of the assisted dying bill.

‘‘From what I have seen, there is a provision where people have to have a period of residency in Victoria,’’ he said.

He said in his electorate, cross-border issues were common.

‘‘Obviously it would have been much better if it was passed in both states,’’ he said.

‘‘My inclination is towards supporting it. The devil’s in the detail though as there would have to be enough safeguards so it is not abused.

‘‘However, I believe it has got to be an option for people, so I am inclined to support it.’’

Member for Murray Plains Peter Walsh confirmed that an amendment to clause 68 stated only an ordinary resident of Victoria for at last 12 months could access the scheme.

Mr Walsh said he was opposed to the principles of assisted dying and voted against the bill.

‘‘If people are supportive of it, when they see the detail in the legislation they will realise it is limited to who can actually access it. You must have a terminal illness, be diagnosed to die within six months, be assessed to be of sound mind and have two doctors sign off on that,’’ he said.

‘‘If you get past all of that, you will get a box of pills to take home and, according to the legislation, you will not be able to have anyone help you. You must take them yourself.

‘‘As always with things such as this, there’s a bit of devil in the detail.’’

The bill will now return to the Lower House to approve the amendments before it becomes law.

Patients suffering from intense and intolerable pain with less than six months to live will have the right to ask their doctor for an assisted death in Victoria as early as 2019.

Extensions to the six-month timeframe will be made for sufferers of conditions like motor neurone disease and multiple sclerosis, who will be able to access voluntary euthanasia with less than 12 months to live.

Echuca doctor Suzanne Harrison said the legislation would give patients the opportunity to make decisions about their own lives.

‘‘It gives the feeling of being empowered in managing their own illness,’’ she said.

‘‘However, it is important to understand that doctors have the right to make decisions about their involvement which will be a challenge.

‘‘It will be similar to termination of pregnancies and some have the right to not be involved.’’

Echuca’s church leaders haven’t changed their position against the bill.

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