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Assisted dying becomes a reality in Victoria

Assisted dying becomes a reality in Victoria - Featured Image


Victoria will enact the only legal voluntary assisted-dying scheme in the country in a move met with mixed emotion.

Labor government-proposed legislation won narrow support in the state’s upper house on Wednesday after 28 hours of continuous debate and the second of two overnight sittings.

“Today is all about emotion and it’s all about compassion,” Premier Daniel Andrews said after the vote.

“This is Victoria at its best, leading our nation.”

Voluntary assisted dying will only be accessibly to terminally ill Victorian adults with less than six months to live.

The bill wasn’t without its opponents and Labor only attracted the support it needed by conceding a number of amendments, including halving the initial life-expectancy of 12 months.

The legislation returns to the lower house next week where the amendments need ratification in what is considered a formality, allowing the scheme to be operational by June 2019.

Advocates for voluntary assisted-dying welcomed the passage of the legislation through the state’s upper house despite the amendments.

“I’d be absolutely confident this new slightly amended legislation will pass,” Dying with Dignity vice-president Dr Rodney Syme said.

“This legislation is entirely about choice – what choice people want to make about how they will die, where they will die and who they will die with,” he said.

Long-time euthanasia advocate Philip Nitschke said he hoped Wednesday’s move would inspire further action.

“Victoria’s example will embolden other more timid state parliaments to try again,” he told AAP.

Liberal MP Inga Peulich was one of 18 politicians in the 40-member chamber to vote ‘no’ and described the legislation as sloppy.

“I’m disappointed for all those people who will be at risk from some fairly bad legislation,” she said.

Outside parliament tempers flared.

“You’ve made a terrible mistake,” anti-voluntary assisted dying campaigner Frances Beaumont yelled at MPs.

Victorian branch president of the Australian Medical Association Lorraine Baker said it was a “challenging day”.

“The outcome of this parliamentary vote will cause anguish for some members of our profession, as well as the public,” she said.

Mr Andrews insists the assisted-dying model is the world’s most conservative.

People applying to use the scheme must be determined by multiple doctors to be suffering intolerable pain and be of sound mind.

Except in cases where patients are too incapacitated, the scheme stipulates lethal medication is self-administered.