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Voluntary assisted dying debate reignited by NSW Parliament bill

Shayne Higson (far left) at the Dying with Dignity rally in front of NSW Parliament on the day of the vote in November 2017. The vote was lost. Photo: Supplied.

By KATELYN MILLIGAN

The euthanasia debate has been reignited by the release of a draft voluntary assisted dying bill by Member for Sydney Alex Greenwich in July.

The bill will give adults suffering with neurodegenerative conditions or terminal illness that will cause death within six months or twelve months access to voluntary assisted dying.

In 2017 NSW was at the forefront of the voluntary euthanasia debate, however the bill was rejected by the upper house after a 20 to 19 vote.

Over the past four years, times have changed.

Victoria, South Australia, Western Australia, and Tasmania have all passed legislation, whilst a bill is now before Queensland Parliament.

NSW is one of the only remaining states to introduce voluntary assisted dying laws.

Dying with Dignity

Dying with Dignity said the law reform will offer people suffering from a terminal illness a compassionate choice. Photo: Supplied.

Vice President of Dying with Dignity Shayne Higson said the law reform will offer people suffering from a terminal illness a compassionate choice.

“They deserve to have a choice. And what that means for the patient is that they can choose the timing, and matter of their death and die peacefully surrounded by their loved ones,” Higson told City Hub.

The sensitive matter will allow NSW Parliament members to cast a conscience vote.

Whilst NSW Opposition Leader Chris Minns and Premier Gladys Berejiklian have both expressed opposition to the bill, Greenwich has had indications that the bill will be cosponsored from members across the political spectrum.

There is significant support for the bill from constituents. The Dying with Dignity petition for NSW Parliament to pass voluntary assisted dying laws has garnered almost 90,000 signatures.

A poll by the Health Services Union revealed that 89% of members support assisted dying law reform. The bill has further been endorsed by the Australian Paramedics Association and Cancer Voices NSW.

The bill is a conservative model of voluntary assisted dying, with strong safeguards in place to ensure those who are terminally ill and whose suffering cannot be alleviated are acting voluntarily and without pressure or duress.  Two independent doctors must assess the patient and ensure they meet all eligibility criteria.

As Parliament has not sat since June 24, Greenwich was unable to present the bill to Parliament in mid-August as planned.

With speculation that NSW Parliament may not sit again until October, there are concerns that the voluntary assisted dying bill will be further delayed.

“We do hope that the government does not try and delay it any further, because every day that we don’t have this law, there are going to be more dying individuals who are facing unbearable suffering at the end of their lives and more families traumatized by watching on,” Higson said.

Greenwich is currently in the process of drafting legislation in hope to present the bill later this month.

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