El­i­gi­bil­ity tight­ened in as­sisted dy­ing bill

MEA­SURES TO STOP ‘DEATH TOURISM’

The Australian - - THE NATION - SA­MAN­THA HUTCHIN­SON VIC­TO­RIAN PO­LIT­I­CAL RE­PORTER

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.

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