It has been announced that a panel will oversee each application to regulate Victoria’s voluntary euthanasia laws.
The laws allow terminally ill Victorians with less than six months to live, the right to end their lives.
The article below is from the June 30, 2018 issue of The Age Digital Edition.
Panel to study every euthanasia request
A panel of eminent Victorians will oversee every application for voluntary euthanasia to ensure that people requesting access to a lethal drug are not “under duress” or being influenced by a psychiatric disorder.
Respected former Supreme Court judge Betty King, QC, who presided over cases involving Carl Williams and his gangland associates, will today be announced as the inaugural chair of the voluntary assisted dying review board.
Ms King will be joined by 13 health and legal experts, including intensive care specialist Dr Charlie Corke and media personality Dr Sally Cockburn.
Health Minister Jill Hennessy said the board would have a year to prepare for the arrival of the voluntary euthanasia laws, which will allow some terminally ill Victorians with less than six months to live the right to end their lives.
“They will be looking to ensure that the medical assessments of people have been done correctly and lawfully,” Ms Hennessy said.
“We have very strict regulation around ensuring that people meet some of the threshold illnesses set out in the law.
“That is that you are … suffering from a terminal illness, that you have capacity to make decisions, that you are not suffering from the effects of psychiatric illness that might be affecting your decision, and that there is no evidence of duress.”
The review board would monitor data from voluntary euthanasia cases, seeking to identify anyone trying to evade the law, Ms Hennessy said. It will have the power to refer cases to the police, the coroner and the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency.
Voluntary euthanasia will be legalised in Victoria from June 19 next year, allowing adults who are suffering intolerably and have less than six months to live to access a fatal substance.
What that substance will be has yet to be decided. It’s understood the Victorian government is seeking advice from the Therapeutic Goods Administration on whether it’s possible to legalise euthanasia dug pentobarbitone (Nembutal) or anaesthetic secobarbital.
Two doctors will have to conduct favourable assessments of a person’s eligibility for euthanasia, and a person has to make three separate requests to end their life, after initiating the process. Doctors and other health workers will be able to conscientiously object to participating.
It has been estimated that about 150 to 200 Victorians could make use of future euthanasia laws each year.
Before the change, an implementation taskforce has been working to finalise crucial elements of the euthanasia framework, including the best formulation of a lethal medication.
It is also developing training for doctors willing to be involved in euthanasia, clinical guidelines and information to be distributed to the public explaining how the new laws will operate.
The chairman of the taskforce, lawyer Julian Gardner, a former Victorian public advocate, said the work would need to be completed by March.
“The training that is required under the act for the two accessing doctors needs to be out there well in advance so some people can undertake it,” he said.
“So there’s a bit of time pressure on.”
Ms Hennessy said she continued to receive weekly correspondence from people desperate for voluntary euthanasia to be introduced in Victoria.
“It’s a matter of great sadness for me that for many of those cases, this law will not be in effect in time to provide them with the sort of relief they are seeking,” she said.
Aisha Dow: theage.com.au
To subscribe, visit theage.digitaleditions.com.au.