After a marathon 28-hour parliamentary sitting, Australia’s first voluntary euthanasia laws have passed Victoria’s Upper House, bringing the state closer to becoming the first to legalise assisted dying.
The drawn-out session was punctuated by accusations of filibustering by MPs opposed to the bill, as well as repeated, unnecessary questioning of many of the 141 clauses and a standoff over whether to allow MPs a break for fear the debate would lose momentum.
In the end, the Labor Government’s Voluntary Assisted Dying Bill passed the emotionally charged conscience vote 22 to 18.
However, there are some proposed amendments to the bill, which means it will return to the Lower House before it can become law.
The bill already passed the Lower House last month, with 47 MPs voting in favour compared to 37.
Should the bill pass as expected, terminally-ill patients will have the right to an assisted death from 2019.
Premier Daniel Andrews said the law will finally give terminally-ill people suffering intolerable pain the right to end their lives with dignity.
“It’s all about providing to those that for too long have been denied a compassionate end, and the control and power over the last phase of their journey,” said Mr Andrews.
“It’s about giving them that control, that care, that compassion and ultimately, the respect to allow them to write that final chapter of their journey. To end intolerable suffering and to give people the dignity they’ve been denied for far too long.”
While it is still unknown what type of drug will be administered, Victorians will be able to access some type of lethal drug within 10 days of requesting permission to die, which then requires a three-step process involving two independent medical assessments.
Patients must at least 18 years old, of sound mind, and have lived in Victoria for at least one year.
They must also be suffering in a way that “cannot be relieved in a manner the person deems tolerable”.
The patient must administer the drug themselves, but in some cases where that may not be possible, a doctor may be asked to do so.
The legislation also includes 68 measures to prevent vulnerable people from being coerced or abused, including criminal offences and a board that will review all cases.
The state of euthanasia play around Australia
A voluntary euthanasia bill was defeated by just one vote this month in the NSW Upper House.
Last year, the South Australian Parliament narrowly rejected a bill legalising the right to request euthanasia. Earlier this year, Tasmania also narrowly voted down a euthanasia law.
The West Australian Parliament has set up a committee to consider euthanasia laws.
The Northern Territory passed euthanasia laws in 1995, but the following year the Federal Government overrode the legislation. Euthanasia is also being discussed in the ACT’s political circles.
Queensland last month said it had no intention of introducing voluntary assisted dying laws.
Do you believe the other states should follow Victoria’s lead? Do you think the likely Victorian law is good news? What are your thoughts on voluntary euthanasia?