Bill supported depends on changes
THE voluntary assisted dying (VAD) bill has passed a second reading in the upper house following to a vote of 22 to 18.
It will now go through the committee stage, where it is likely to be scrutinised line-by-line once again, and amendments to it will be discussed.
The success of the vote is a strong indication that the bill will pass into law, however many have indicated that their support hinges on certain amendments being made.
Among these amendments are increasing the safeguards to protect against elder abuse and coercion, and reducing the requirement that a patient be 12 months or less away from death, to six months.
Member for Northern Victoria Jaclyn Symes is a member of the Government’s Legal and Social Issues Committee, and as part of which she has been heavily involved in the issue of end-oflife choices.
In offering her contribution to the emotional debate in parliament last Thursday, Ms Symes said after listening to the “deeply personal stories about agonising experiences of witnessing a terrible death of a loved one,” she would not be supporting any amendments to weaken people’s access to an assisted death.
“The committee decided that assisted dying in Victoria should be provided only to those who are at the end of life as determined by a medical professional.
“We determined that they are best placed to assess whether a patient is at the end of life according to the nature of their condition and its likely trajectory.
“We categorically did not want to put a six-month limit on this. We deliberately left the language open.”
Ms Symes urged those who were considering supporting an amendment to change the prognosis from 12 months until death down to six, should talk with people who have experiences with Motor Neurone Disease (MND).
“I do not think it is my role to use my contribution to outline in detail the demise of these people in their final year (with MND).
“It is certainly not my area of expertise, but it is fair to say that many people with a neurodegenerative disease would effectively lose the benefit of access if we did not have a 12-month outer limit in relation to this regime.”
Ms Symes concluded her passionate speech by saying she wanted dying people to be assured of some control over their death, so that they can find some peace and comfort in life.
“I am voting for this bill so that last words to loved ones are sad but content goodbyes, not desperate pleas for help to die,” Ms Symes said.
“I am voting for this bill so that medical professionals are clear about what they can do to help ease suffering and hasten death.
“I am voting for the bill so that those diagnosed with a terminal illness are googling ‘How do I enjoy my last 12 months of life?’ and writing bucket lists, not googling ‘How best to kill myself’ and writing suicide notes.”
The upper house adjourned on Friday following the emotional two days of speeches on both sides of the divide.
While the bill still needs to pass a third and final vote, the second reading vote is usually a strong indication of overall support. The house will next sit in a fortnight.