Bill passed

29 Nov 2017 Benalla Ensign, Benalla VIC (General News) by Simon Ruppert Symes rapt with assisted dying legislation Victoria took a massive step towards ending the pain and suffering of many when the Voluntary Assisted Dying Bill was passed by the states upper house last Wednesday. The historic legislation got through after a marathon 28-hour sitting leaving Victoria on the verge of being the first state in Australia to legalise euthanasia for the terminally ill. The legislation, which was a conscience vote, passed by just four votes, 22-18 with some MPs openly crying at the result. State Member for Northern Victoria Jaclyn Symes was one of those, and described the result as a fantastic outcome. One of the reasons Im in parliament is to get good outcomes for people and this is the best outcome I have been part of, Ms Symes said. Ive never cried when a bill has been passed before. Last night (Wednesday, November 22) when I was going home I knew that I was part of something, that is not about me sitting up for 30 hours, but about delivering for those that have a terminal illness and their families. They will now have a choice when the laws become enacted. The legislation received bipartisan backing with members of the Liberals, Greens, and several independents joining 11 Labor MPs in supporting the bill. Ms Symes, who described the legislation as historic, said it had been a long process and she was pleased it was on the verge of becoming law. It was long and arduous, but ultimately respectful and we implemented the will of the public, Ms Symes said. We now have a passage of legislation that will soon be law. Continued Page 3 From Page 1 I think that the process that was adopted in the development of this legislation which was a private members bill to a parliamentary committee with lots of input from experts and the public was very well placed to have the best chance of passing through parliament, Ms Symes said. And once it went to parliament it gave MPs the chance to look into it and ask their own questions. MPs took that opportunity and put forward amendments, which were debated and voted on. Those amendments included halving the timeframe for patients to access the scheme from 12 months to live to six months to live and provisions for people living with a neurological condition to be able to access the scheme earlier. Under the terms of the amended bill there will be a 10-day cooling-off period between a patient requesting a lethal drug and it being prescribed. There will be a three-step process involving at least two medical professionals before a lethal drug can be requested. The patient must be over 18 and have been a Victorian citizen for more than 12 months, and they must administer the drug themselves, if they can. If they are not in a position to administer the drug themselves a doctor can be authorised to do so. All cases will be reviewed by a board that will protect the vulnerable and the bill includes 68 safeguards to protect people from abuse or coercion. Ms Symes said it was important to make sure all amendments that were important to the public were considered. There were some amendments that were important to people, such as record keeping and having something on the death certificate to show a patient accessed (the voluntary assisted suicide scheme). In order to get the legislation through the upper house there were two marathon sittings, which Ms Symes said was just part of the process and unavoidable. The last one was 28 hours, we started at midday Tuesday and finished at 4 pm the following day, Ms Symes said. Not every member of parliament was awake for the whole time. A handful of us were, (Special Minister for State) Gavin Jennings was at the table answering questions for the whole debate. We had the odd break here and there, my role as whip meant it was important that I maintained oversight of the process from start to finish. I didnt get any sleep, but because of my feelings on this bill I was happy to get through without any. My job as whip was to make sure everyone knew what they were voting on. It was fine for me. Some people found it challenging, but unfortunately it was the nature of the bill that those opposed to it were delaying it as long as possible. Having said that, in the last hours of the debate, everyone was very respectful and I think we closed it with a good understanding of where everyone in parliament sat and everyone seemed happy with the process. But I did find some of it very frustrating. The bill will now return to the legislative assembly. Caption Text: Jaclyn Symes Licensed by Copyright Agency. You may only copy or communicate this work with a licence.