Terminally ill patients in Victoria will become the first in Australia to access medical euthanasia, after a bill was passed through the state’s lower house yesterday.
Following more than 100 hours of debate across both houses of Parliament and two overnight sittings, Lower House MPs approved the amended Assisted Dying Bill.
State Member for Shepparton Suzanna Sheed said she had voted in favour of the legislation and was pleased that the bill had passed after a challenging process.
The legislation will go through an 18-month implementation period, before it comes into effect in June 2019.
Ms Sheed said she believed limited numbers of people would take advantage of the voluntary assisted dying, but many would be comforted by the option to choose.
‘‘At the end of the day, I am comfortable with the bill and the amendments made to it,’’ Ms Sheed said.
‘‘There’s a lot more work to be done, regulations will be drawn up and there will be a lot of training for medical practitioners and other people who are going to be engaged with the process.
‘‘I would hope that a new investment in palliative care will be rolled out to regional areas, because what we do want to see is that people have a genuine choice.’’
The legislation is the result of 2 years of extensive consultation and engagement with MPs, community, and the health, palliative care and legal sectors.
But State Member for Northern Victoria Wendy Lovell maintained she was disappointed about a lack of consultation around the draft bill.
‘‘They used tactics to wear people down and force the legislation through without it being able to be considered appropriately and extensively,’’ she said.
‘‘While I’m happy to see some amendments to the bill, I think it was an extremely poor way to handle such an important issue.’’
GV Hospice Care executive manager Carmel Smith said she did not believe the changes would impact palliative care and the service would continue to provide care, no matter a patient’s stance.
By law, patients will have to administer the medication themselves and she said palliative services would bear no involvement.
‘‘In our service in Shepparton, we have up to 140 people die with us every year and I can tell you that I’ve probably had half-a-dozen who have said their life was unbearable,’’ she said.
‘‘I think it’s as safe as it can possibly be and they’ve done as much as they can that people won’t be able to abuse the access.’’
The assisted dying plan will go to Victorian Governor Linda Dessau for royal assent.