Eligibility tightened in assisted dying bill
MEASURES TO STOP ‘DEATH TOURISM’
The Andrews government has tightened eligibility requirements for its controversial euthanasia plan and proposed extra measures to prevent “death tourism” as it woos supporters ahead of a final vote.
Following several amendments, access to Victoria’s assisted dying scheme could be restricted to patients with a life expectancy of six months or less who can prove they have resided in the state for longer than a year.
The proposed changes put forward by the government come as the bill sits before the upper house and numbers for a final vote on the scheme rest on a knife edge, with two undecided MPs still unsure whether its safeguards are strong enough.
Attorney-General Martin Pakula said the changes were necessary to ensure the bill received the support of the upper house. “These amendments give the bill the best chance of passing through the Legislative Council,” he said.
Upper house MPs sat down yesterday to debate the bill in a committee phase, in which more amendments are expected to be lodged by MPs attempting to limit the possibility of elder abuse and coercion.
The vote is expected to be tight. Vote 1 Local Jobs MP James Purcell yesterday announced he would support the bill, leaving the government one vote shy of a majority of 21 needed to pass the legislation.
Liberal MPs Bruce Atkinson and Simon Ramsay are undecided, saying they will examine amendments before a final call.
If the bill is passed by the upper house, it will go back to the lower house where the amendments will be examined and voted on. Liberal MP Simon Ramsay has put forward two pages of amendments, including a proposal requiring an additional psychiatric check on prospective patients with a history of mental illness.
The most notable government change is a proposal to halve the life expectancy requirement to six months, with exceptions for patients suffering multiple sclerosis and other neurodegenerative diseases. Other changes include a move to limit “death tourism”, by requiring anyone who wants to access the scheme to have been a resident of the state for at least a year, or six months for those suffering neurodegenerative diseases.
The NSW upper house also begins debate on an assisted dying bill this week.
Three of Australia’s leading businessmen have urged politicians to support euthanasia, arguing a growing number of voters and ageing Australians want a choice about the end of their lives.
Writing in The Australian today, former BHP chairman Jerry Ellis, former RBA governor Dick Warbuton and former Royal Rehab chairman Clive Austin have issued an impassioned plea supporting the Victoria and NSW bills.
The three argue that repeated opinion polls show more than 70 per cent of Australians think euthanasia should be an option, and that assisted dying models overseas have shown the programs can work without risks of elder abuse or coercion.
“By repeatedly voting down these bills, our MPs are acting against the wishes of the majority of Australians. They are also turning their back on the small number of terminally ill individuals whose suffering cannot be adequately relieved. Why is this happening?” they write.