Assisted dying laws to bring comfort

20 Dec 2017 Euroa Gazette, Euroa VIC (General News) by Will Murray AFTER 101 hours and 14 minutesthe equivalent of four days, five hours and 14 minutes of debate across both chambers of the Victoria Parliamentvoluntary euthanasia will be available to Victorians in 2019. The Voluntary Assisted Dying Bill (VAD) passed the final hurdle late last month thanks to support on both sides of the aisle. When it comes into law in around 18 months, it will allow patients who are over 18, of sound mind, and have had two independent medical assessments to confirm they are within six months of death, access to lethal drugs. There are some exemptions to the six month rule, including one for those with Motor Neurone Disease (MND). For Jaclyn Symes (MLC, Northern Victoria), getting to this point has been a two-year journey as part of the Legal and Social Issues Committee Inquiry into End of Life Choices. Much of the past couple of years as part of the committee has been spent travelling across the state, hearing from palliative care experts, doctors, patients, and listening to the personal experiences of families who have had a loved one die badly, Ms Symes said. After hearing the stories these people had to tell, we made our recommendation to the government that something needed to be done to ensure a better outcome for vulnerable people, to restore some dignity, and to prevent these horrible deaths. It hasnt been an easy task getting the bill through, but its one of the most worthwhile processes Ive been involved in, and an absolute privilege to be part of the committee on this issue. Ms Symes said the expert panel that developed their recommendation into legislation to put before the parliament did a fantastic job in ensuring a balance was achieved between accessibility and protection against abuse of the law. The law in its original, un-amended form was very well thought out, and was based on all the best information available from other jurisdictions with voluntary euthanasia laws, she said. There have been some amendments which I think are unnecessary, but thats the reality of politics sometimes. What we have now is a law that will offer many people a lot of comfort, knowing that they have control over ending their life if it should become necessary, and a lot of people who have personal experience of a bad death happy that it wont happen to others. Ms Symes said the support from the community has continued to grow over the past few months, as the issue garnered more and more attention. While the debate was for the most part a respectful one, Ms Symes said that things went downhill once opponents of the bill realised they were not going to be successful. Some of the arguments against the bill were paternalistic and downright offensive, she said. They were put forward under the guise of being designed to protect little old ladies from greedy relatives coercing them into euthanasia, but they were designed to drum up fear and not add to the debate. In reality, coercion is made virtually impossible by the safeguards in place, and those opposed were merely trying to filibuster the debate until we gave up. By the end we were called Nazis and told we had blood on our hands, but we achieved a good result. The law will come into effect in 2019, which Ms Symes said gave the government time to prepare and make sure that everything is in place to accommodate the law change, and ensure they get it right. We have a little way to go before we will be capable of implementing the law; doctors have to be ready, pharmaceuticals have to be available, and by extending the date to 2019 we are making sure were ready. Its heart-breaking for some that VAD will not be available to them, but hope they get some comfort knowing that it is coming. Licensed by Copyright Agency. You may only copy or communicate this work with a licence.