Tom Ballantyne, president of the Australian Lawyers Alliance (ALA) Victoria, has welcomed the successful passage of “right-to-die” laws in the lower house last week. He described the voluntary euthanasia bill as the first step towards a regime which could offer people dignity in their final days.
“Terminally ill Victorians deserve the right to decide when to end their suffering,” Mr Ballantyne said.
“Importantly, the voluntary euthanasia laws which were passed today also provide legal regulation and oversight to a practice that is already occurring,” he said.
Victoria’s lower house debated the proposed law in a sitting that lasted for a marathon 26 hours.
To come into effect, the laws (which have been subject to 141 proposed amendments), now rest in the hands of 40 Victorian MPs in the Senate. Should the bill succeed, the legislation will create the first voluntary euthanasia regime in Australia.
The legal body that Mr Ballantyne leads is calling for the Victorian Senate to endorse the voluntary euthanasia laws. In particular, the ALA said the regime would create certainty for medical professionals who wanted to act in the best interests of their terminally ill patients.
“The law as it currently stands puts some medical professionals in an invidious situation, where they can be faced with a conflict between acting in their clients’ best interest and complying with the law,” Mr Ballantyne said.
“These laws provide certainty for terminally ill people and their families, as well as the medical professionals who are assisting them.”
Shortly before the bill passed through the lower house, former Australian prime minister Paul Keating publicly spoke out against the prospect of the new laws in Victoria. He suggested that supporters of the bill were misguided and that the laws were an “unacceptable departure in our approach to human existence … and what it means to be human”.
Mr Keating described the regime as an act in “bald utopianism”, adding that the laws could not protect those who were gravely ill from having their lives cut short because of the convenience or possible financial gain that their death might afford carers and family members.