Victorian Government set to hold conscience vote on assisted dying after accepting committee findingsUpdated yesterday at 9:08pm
The Victorian Government has accepted a cross-party committee's recommendation to legalise assisted dying and looks set to hold a conscience vote on the issue next year.
- Legislation to be introduced in 2017, followed by a conscience vote
- Cabinet wanted the contentious issue dealt with before state election in 2018
- A request to die must be made by a mentally competent patient, with an incurable, fatal disease and must be approved by two doctors.
The issue went to Cabinet on Monday and it is understood on Thursday the Government will announce it will introduce legislation next year based on the committee's recommendations and put that to a conscience vote.
The Government wants the issue dealt with in 2017 so it does not stretch into an election year.
The report from Parliament's Legal and Social Issues Committee report made 49 recommendations covering assisted suicide and called for amendments to the Crime Act to protect doctors.
The committee said any request to die must come from a terminally ill, mentally competent patient over the age of 18 in the final weeks or months of their life and must be approved by a primary doctor and an independent secondary doctor.
Assisted dying should involve a doctor prescribing a lethal drug, which the patient could take without further assistance, unless the person is physically unable to take the legal drug themselves, the report said.
Conscience vote in Parliament
It is uncertain how the numbers in Parliament will stack up when the issue is put to a vote.
There are a lot of MPs who have come out in favour of the idea in recent months, including Premier Daniel Andrews, who said he had changed his view on euthanasia after losing his father earlier this year.
Stories of love and personal hardship can change minds about euthanasia, writes George Williams.
He told Statewide Drive that the Government would respond to recommendations this week.
"We need to accept, all of us, that we can do much better by those who are at the end of their life in very vulnerable circumstances," Mr Andrews said.
"We are letting a lot of people down and we have got to do better than that."
However Mr Andrews' deputy, James Merlino does not support assisted dying.
Palliative care doctors this week warned against legalising euthanasia saying that it prioritises patients who choose assisted suicide at the expense of those receiving end-of-life care.
Euthanasia was briefly legalised in the Northern Territory in 1995 but federal laws passed in 1997 effectively overrode the territory's laws and prevented any territory from legislating on the issue.
South Australia has attempted to legalise voluntary euthanasia through a Private Member's Bill 15 times but it has been continually defeated.
'Bold' move applauded
Victorian Sex Party MP Fiona Patten welcomed the Government's "bold" move, saying it was 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.
She called it a "breakthrough moment" in politics and said medically assisted dying was already happening in Victoria in a totally unregulated way.
"Doctors can provide lethal doses of painkillers if death is a secondary effect to pain treatment," she said.
"We should respect them enough to give them the choice to die surrounded with family and friends in as much comfort as possible.