It’s time we allowed the terminally ill to die with dignity
19th July 2021
Draft legislation which would see voluntary assisted dying laws introduced in NSW has today been released publicly by the Independent Member for Sydney Alex Greenwich and his Independent colleague, the Member for Lake Macquarie Greg Piper.
The Voluntary Assisted Dying Bill for the terminally ill will be tabled when parliament resumes in August.
Mr Piper said the proposed legislation contains strong safeguards around access, administration and exemptions for health professionals with conscientious or faith-based objections.
“As a mature and educated society, I believe we should be able to accept the right of a terminally-ill person to determine the time of their own death when they, with sound mind, choose to do so because their pain and quality of life is no longer bearable to them,” Mr Piper said.
“This Bill will allow a person with a terminal illness the right to decide one of the most important parts of their life – the chance to die with dignity.
“While I’ve been part of previous attempts to introduce these laws, they have sadly failed because, I believe, a number of parliamentary leaders have allowed their religious beliefs to outweigh the wishes of the vast majority in their communities.
“It is not right, in my mind, that one’s religious beliefs play such a defining role in the lives of others, but I would hasten to add that I’ve spoken to many people of various religious faiths who support this Bill and have opened their hearts to voluntary assisted dying for the terminally ill.
“A mountain of surveys and consultation show that about 80 per cent of people in NSW support the right to assisted dying for the terminally ill. That figure is even higher in Lake Macquarie and most other parts of the Hunter Region.
“With assisted dying laws now passed by Victoria, South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania, and a bill already introduced into the Queensland parliament, NSW is sadly lagging in this reform. This cannot be ignored any longer.
“I very strongly believe that this is the best and safest Bill of its type to be debated in the NSW Parliament. It has robust safeguards built into it, access to it is highly controlled, and perhaps most importantly, it allows exemptions for those health professionals with a conscientious objection, and also to entities such as a faith-based nursing home or religious-based hospital.
“I know that the vast majority of people in NSW support this important social reform, but it is the Members of Parliament who will vote on it, so I encourage people everywhere to let their State MP know their thoughts.
“It is time we allowed people with a terminal illness to control their pain. It’s time we allowed them a choice to control their own dignified end of life.”
KEY THINGS YOU SHOULD KNOW ABOUT THE VOLUNTARY ASSISTED DYING BILL
- To access VAD, a person must be an adult, an Australian citizen, a NSW resident, and be diagnosed with a terminal illness that will cause death within 12 months for neurodegenerative conditions, or six months for other terminal conditions.
- The Bill includes protections for doctors, all health workers and others who have a conscientious or religious objection to VAD. These protections are extended to faith-based entities such as a nursing home with religious affiliations.
- The VAD process is entirely voluntary at every stage and can only be accessed by someone with a sound mind. They will need to be assessed by two doctors before a rigorous multi-staged assessment process.
- The Bill includes robust safeguards which ensure that a person is acting voluntarily and not under duress or pressure by another person. There is a range of high penalties included in the Bill, including life imprisonment for the unauthorised administration of the substance and seven years in prison for someone who induces another to apply for VAD.
- Final decisions on applications are made by a board which is led by two judges or judicial officers of the Supreme Court.
- The Bill will be reviewed after 12 months, with statistics and findings reported every six months.