Terminally ill celebrate the right to die

23 Nov 2017 The Australian, Australia (General News) by Samantha Hutchinson Terminally ill patients in Victoria will have access to the countrys first voluntary euthanasia scheme in more than 20 years, after an assisted dying bill passed the states upper house following a marathon sitting of parliament. Legislative Council MPs voted to make Victoria the first state in the nation to allow terminally ill people to legally end their own lives, passing the Labor governments bill by 22 votes to 18 after an emotionally charged debate. Premier Daniel Andrews praised MPs for giving terminally ill Victorians the power to write their own final chapter. Todays all about emotion, and its all about compassion, Mr Andrews said. Its about providing for those who have for too long been denied a compassionate end, and the control, the power, over the last phase of their journey. Amendments to the bill will have to be approved in the lower house when it sits next week, but this is expected to be largely a formality. The laws make Victoria the first state in the country to legalise voluntary-assisted dying and the only jurisdiction in the country to have enacted the landmark reform since the federal government repealed the Northern Territorys Rights of the Terminally Ill Act in 1997. During the time it was in operation, four people ended their lives under its provisions. Cancer sufferer Kass Hall and Nia Sims, who has a lifethreatening auto-immune condition, said the outcome was a win for terminally ill patients who now felt they had a degree of control Continued on Page 4 MORE REPORTS P4 HOW WILL IT WORK? ? Patients must make three, clear euthanasia requests ? They will be assessed by two experienced doctors, including at least one specialist ? Those approved will be granted permits for lethal medications, which must be self-administered ? The process to apply and receive medication will take 10 days ? Unused lethal medication must be returned within 15 days of death ? The Department of Health and Human Services will approve applications ? Death certificates will record voluntary assisted dying ? The coroner must be notified of assisted dying deaths Source: Victorian government Terminally ill celebrate the right to die Continued from Page 1 over their lives. Im thrilled, Ms Hall said. And its not so much for myself, but for others who will now have the right to decide their own future and to exercise their own personal autonomy. For a lot of people, knowing that its there is enough. Ms Hall, 39, has been battling cancer since being diagnosed with pediatric gastrointestinal stromal tumour at the age of 12 and fears the illness will one day end her life. Its on the table and whether or not it becomes a reality, who knows, but at least its an option, she said. Ms Sims said the bill brought her an enormous amount of comfort. The reality is that with my disease, I could experience either gut or lung failure, which means starving or suffocating. But now I have peace of mind knowing that I have control, she said. The Victorian scheme, which its architects say is the most conservative in the world, will come into action in June 2019, after an 18-month implementation period. It will allow terminally ill patients of sound mind with a life expectancy of six months or fewer to end their lives. There will be special exceptions for sufferers of motor-neurone disease and other neuro-degenerative illnesses with a 12-month life expectancy to access the scheme. In most cases, patients will be given the lethal drug by a doctor and will take it themselves. In some case, where a patient is unable to take the drug themselves, a doctor may be permitted to administer it. Former prime minister Tony Abbott condemned the passage of the bill and called for its repeal. Peoples lives have to be respected and this idea that we should end the lives of people who have failed our test of usefulness or have failed our test of what constitutes a decent quality of life is absolutely dead wrong, Mr Abbott said. I hope that a future Victorian parliament might reverse this. Mr Abbott spoke to 2GB radio host Ben Fordham from the bedside of his father Richard, who had a stroke on Monday. People who are gravely ill should have their pain relieved, not their lives ended, he said. Doctors should be healers; they should never be required to be killers. The bill passed with the support of 11 government MPs, in addition to four Liberals, five Greens, Reason Party leader Fiona Patten and Vote 1 Local Jobs leader James Purcell. Emotional scenes played out in the chamber after Legislative Council president Bruce Atkinson announced the final outcome. Teary government MPs, including Cesar Melhem, Jaclyn Symes and Jaala Pulford who earlier in the debate had shared the heartbreaking story of her 12-year-old daughter Sineads battle with cancer embraced one another in front of a packed public gallery. Caption Text: STUART McEVOY Cancer sufferer Kass Hall in Melbourne yesterday and, below, Nia Sims. For a lot of people, knowing that its there is enough, Ms Hall says of euthanasia Clockwise from main: Nia Sims, 43, is terminally ill with scleroderma; upper house MPs celebrate as the bill passes through the Victorian parliament; and Health Minister Jill Hennessy and Premier Daniel Andrews after the vote PHOTOS: STUART McEVOY, GETTY IMAGES, AAP Licensed by Copyright Agency. You may only copy or communicate this work with a licence.