A step closer to assisted dying

29 Nov 2017 Myrtleford Times, Myrtleford VIC (General News) by Samantha Dick STATE Government MP Jaclyn Symes (MLC, Northern Victoria) cried with relief in Parliament last week when the Voluntary Assisted Dying Bill passed the upper house after a gruelling 28-hour sitting. I burst into tears when it went through, Ms Symes told the Wangaratta Chronicle. It is by far the biggest outcome for me in the time Ive been a member of Parliament. The Bill, which passed 22-18, will return this week for a final vote to the lower house in its amended form, bringing Victoria one step closer to being the first state in Australia to legalise euthanasia. If it is passed into law, there will be an 18-month gap before assisted dying becomes available to those who are eligible. Ms Symes said one major amendment to the Bill ruled that terminally ill people could only access the scheme if they had been diagnosed with six months to live instead of 12 months. However, she said 12 months was retained as an exemption for people who suffered neurological diseases such as a motor neurone disease. Another change to the Bill stated that patients must live in Victoria for at least one year before being eligible to access the lethal drug in an effort to prevent euthanasia tourism. We dont want people flocking to Victoria to access the scheme, Ms Symes explained. Another change indicated that the mode of death be written on the death certificate of a diseased person who accessed euthanasia. For example, the cause of death may be brain cancer, but the mode of death would be voluntary dying assistance. Ms Symes said family members could only be involved if the patient formally agreed to it in private with a doctor. There is the option for family involvement, because we appreciate that a lot of these big decisions often involve family members, she said. Patients must administer the drug themselves, unless they are physically unable to do it, in which case a doctor could be requested to administer the drug under strict conditions. The whole system provides choice for terminally ill people to access a self-administration scheme, Ms Symes said. But we dont want to discriminate against those who cant swallow the drug themselves or cant use their arms or hands, which is why in some cases a doctor could administer it for them. The long-time supporter of euthanasia said she was relieved but exhausted after the total 61 hours of debate. The reality is that there were people so determined to railroad this situation that if we had not sat through the night, we would not have got this done, she said. Parts of it were really frustrating, especially when people deliberately used tactics to try and stop the Bill, even though it was clear the majority supported it. Some opponents labelled euthanasia suicide tickets and at one point we were called Nazis. It was hard, it was arduous but I was motivated by knowing how much this Bill would help people. I feel very privileged to have been part of a process that will ultimately deliver a law that gives people with a terminal illness the right to choose to avoid a horrible death. Tim McCurdy (MLA, Ovens Valley), who voted against the initial Bill, said he was disappointed by the outcome, largely due to concerns about safeguards for the patient. I hope there are enough safeguards in placeotherwise it wont surprise me if we see this bill back in Parliament in the future, he said. Theres still room for error in terms of administration of the drug. I certainly understand that people want choices at the end of their life and I certainly feel for those people, I just sincerely hope it doesnt create more issues than it solves. Caption Text: MOMENTOUS: Jaclyn Symes (MLC, Northern Victoria) described the passage of the Euthanasia Bill as the biggest outcome in her time in parliament. PHOTO: Jeff Zeuschner Licensed by Copyright Agency. You may only copy or communicate this work with a licence.