Terminally ill Victorians will be able to legally end their own lives after State Parliament passed the government’s voluntary assisted dying bill in November 2017.
After more than 100 hours of debate , the bill had a low-key final passage through the lower house just before midday.
But the government has acknowledged that people with painful terminal illnesses will be disappointed that the laws will not come into force until 2019.
The legislation calls for an 18-month ‘‘ implementation period’ ’ to finalise outstanding details and the exact nature of the lethal drugs that will be used.
‘‘ I know this is a disappointment to some people who have a terminal illness,’’ Health Minister Jill Hennessy said after yesterday’s vote.
‘‘ But the bill does require an 18-month implementation period.
‘‘ We have been very dedicated to the task of developing this bill and we’re going to be equally dedicated to the task of getting a safe, sensible and robust system in place.’’
Ms Hennessy said the technical work on making voluntary euthanasia a reality in Victoria ‘‘ starts tomorrow’’ .
‘‘ We will be establishing an implementation panel that will have the necessary expertise to start to develop what this model will look like, the clinical training issues, engagement with the medical workforce, as well as implementing all of the other issues that were contained in the Ministerial Advisory Panel report,’’ the minister said.
There has been sometimes bitter division within the medical establishment during Victoria’s debate.
But the Victorian branch of the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation was quick to welcome the decision on Wednesday.
‘‘ Under this law, terminally-ill Victorians who make a voluntary assisted dying request will have more access to palliative care options and further specialist review of their illness or condition and their choice will be covered by a safe legal framework,’’ branch secretary Lisa Fitzpatrick said. ‘‘ Importantly people will talk more to their doctors about the dying process.
‘‘ This has been a difficult ethical debate and while the majority of our members support terminally-ill Victorians ’ right to choose voluntary assisted dying, those who don’t will be able to conscientiously object to any involvement.’’
Catholic Archbishop of Melbourne Denis Hart described the passage of the laws as ‘‘ deeply regrettable and most disappointing’’ .
‘‘ Catholic health and aged care providers will continue to accompany those who face death, always striving to provide the best care to them and their loved ones,’’ Dr Hart said. ‘‘ Assisted suicide and euthanasia are not part of their practise and are incompatible with the provision of quality palliative care.
‘‘ The Archdiocese will strongly advocate that the Victorian government honours its promise of increased palliative care, particularly in regional areas.’’
The government ovecame a last stand on Tuesday evening and Wednesday by opponents who would not to let the bill pass without a fight .
Substantial amendments had been agreed to overcome opposition in the upper house two weeks ago, including lowering the proposed lifeexpectancy threshold from 12 months to six and committing more money to palliative care.
But a last-ditch effort in the lower house by Liberal frontbencher Robert Clark to put the bill on hold indefinitely had to be defeated by 44 votes to 37 on Wednesday morning before the final vote could go ahead.