I have always considered myself a proud Melburnian, but today I am proudly a Victorian as euthanasia laws are set for parliament.
Voluntary euthanasia laws are likely to go before State Parliament next year, with the Andrews Government establishing an expert panel to advise it on an appropriate model.
The Victorian government is understood to be days away (Dcember 2016) from accepting recommendations to legalise voluntary euthanasia and reveal plans to take it to a conscience vote next year (2017).
It has until the end of the week (Dec 9, 2016) to hand down its response to the recommendations of a cross-party committee’s report released in June.
The issue was taken to cabinet on Monday (Dec 5, 2016) and the government will want it dealt with in 2017 to avoid it running into an election year, the ABC reported.
Under the committee’s proposal, only adults with decision-making capacity, suffering from a serious and terminal condition, with months or weeks left to live, would be given the choice to die.
There was a surge of support at senior levels of the Andrews government in September when Ms Hennessy declared her backing for voluntary euthanasia.
More than half of Victoria’s cabinet have publicly supported voluntary euthanasia, including Agriculture Minister Jaala Pulford who lost her 13-year-old daughter Sinead to cancer in 2014.
She had previously voted against a euthanasia bill in 2008. “Since then, I’ve learnt more about death and dying than I ever cared to,” she told Fairfax Media. “I think our laws need to change to reflect the needs of people experiencing profound suffering.”
Premier Daniel Andrews said the recent death from cancer of his father had also challenged his previously held views on the issue.
“If you search your conscience, and you search your own personal experience, I think more and more Victorians are coming to the conclusion that we are not giving a dignified end, we are not giving the support, the love and care that every Victorian should be entitled to in their final moments,” he said.
Interestingly, Premier Daniel Andrews will not support the bill but is supporting a concience vote.
Many MPs have said support their support is conditional on the right safeguards being put in place.
Voluntary Euthanasia Scheme
- Under the committee’s proposed scheme the choice to die could not be included in an advanced-care directive and must come from the patients themselves.
- The request must be made three times – twice in writing and once verbally – and signed off on by two doctors.
The Australian Medical Association (Victoria) will release a position statement on physician-assisted suicide on Wednesday, which acknowledges divided views within the profession; and advocates for legislation that provides legal certainty and safeguards to protect patients and doctors.
Practices requiring certainty include acknowledging a competent patient’s right to decline treatment; cases where a drug or treatment may relieve symptoms but also hasten death; and the provision of care that gives the patient no benefit.
“All medical practitioners, whilst endeavouring to prolong life so that it can be enjoyed to its fullest, have a duty of care to ensure that no patient endures avoidable suffering, which is an entirely subjective matter,” the position states.
The AMA (VIC) also called for more funding of public and community based palliative care services.
Australian Sex Party leader Fiona Patten, who initiated the inquiry into end of life choices, welcomed the move to bring on legislation next year.
“This is the right thing to do. Allowing terminally ill people the right to die when they choose, with dignity, is not only compassionate but common sense,” she said.
Andrews government poised to accept voluntary euthanasia, conscience vote expected in 2017
Rania Spooner | TheAge