Bill sup­ported de­pends on changes

Euroa Gazette - - NEWS - By WILL MUR­RAY

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.

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