A bill to legalise voluntary assisted dying in Victoria has been introduced into State Parliament this week, including a proposal for new criminal offences to protect people from abuse.
Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews said that the historic bill incorporates a scheme designed by a special ministerial panel to deliver a “safe and compassionate framework”, with 68 separate safeguards to ensure that individuals and the community are protected.
The proposed scheme sets out a requirement for the process to be self-administered. The law prevents a doctor’s administration unless a person cannot physically administer or digest the medication themselves.
The Premier’s office said that its model for voluntary assisted dying is one of the safest and most conservative schemes to be proposed in the world. The ministerial panel that developed the model was chaired by neurosurgeon and former president of the Australian Medical Association (AMA) Brian Owler.
“This legislation will deliver the safest model in the world, with the most stringent checks and balances. This means all members of Parliament can have a respectful debate on the principles, instead of the technicalities,” Mr Andrews said.
Victoria’s tabled euthanasia bill sets out a series of safeguards proposed by the panel, including request and assessment guidelines for those seeking to access voluntary assisted dying.
According to the Premier’s office, these mechanisms will act to rigorously “protect the vulnerable from exploitation and coercion”.
Under the proposed laws, only adults in Victoria with decision-making capacity, who are suffering and are in the final weeks and months of life, with an outer limit of 12 months, can access the scheme.
In addition, people will only be able to access voluntary assisted dying in Victoria if they make three clear requests and have two independent medical assessments that determine they are eligible with strict criteria.
Terminally ill citizens must initiate a request for access to the scheme themselves and any doctor who raises the issue with a patient will be subject to a professional misconduct investigation.
The bill also includes establishing a state body dedicated that will have oversight of the voluntary assisted dying scheme.
The premier prepared the bill with Health Minister Jill Hennessy and Attorney-General Martin Pakula.
“We have designed these laws to give genuine choice for Victorians with a terminal illness, while putting in place rigorous safeguards from abuse including a new oversight body,” the Attorney-General said.
Victorian Parliament will make a conscience vote on the euthanasia bill by the end of the year. Should the laws pass, an additional 18-month implementation period will follow to accommodate the training and set up requirements of the scheme.
“Victoria will be first state in Australia to legalise voluntary assisted dying should it be passed by Parliament,” Mr Andrews said.