Vic closes in on safe assisted dying laws

Victoria’s assisted dying laws will be “the safest in the world”, says Premier Daniel Andrews.


He has embraced a set of guidelines which would allow terminally ill Victorians to choose to die.

A proposed timeline means eligible patients with less than a year to live could use the new laws by 2019.

An expert panel asked by parliament to investigate the matter has made a raft of recommendations to build a legal framework.

“These 66 recommendations provide us with a conservative system, the safest in the world, but one where we no longer deny people that which they seek,” Mr Andrews told reporters on Tuesday.

In a press conference flanked by Attorney-General Martin Pakula and Health Minister Jill Hennessy, the premier said he hoped to have a conscience vote by the end of the year.

“What we know is many Victorians are not getting the care they need,” he said.

“There is no solution to their unbearable pain and they are taking matters into their own hands. That leads to many tragic outcomes. That’s unacceptable to me.”

Legislation was being drafted and could be finalised within months, Mr Pakula said.

If the laws are passed by the end of 2017, it could be in practice after 19 months and there would be a review after five years.

Mr Andrews, who changed his views to support the practice after his father’s death, called for a respectful debate.

“That, I think, requires people to be measured. They can be passionate certainly, they can be very engaged in this process,” he said.

Opposition Leader Matthew Guy opposes any form of euthanasia but will allow his MPs to vote freely.

“I don’t think politicians are the right people to decide when someone under what circumstances you should end your life,” he said.

Greens MLC Colleen Hartland unsuccessfully made a bid for assisted dying laws a decade ago and thinks this attempt should be successful.

The family of right-to-die campaigner and palliative care nurse Ray Godbold, who died of gastroesophageal cancer, told reporters they are pleased the laws are making progress.

A ministerial advisory panel on Friday revealed its recommended guidelines, including that a patient would need to be expected to die within 12 months, show sufficient mental capacity to make the decision, and be a Victorian resident at least 18 years’ old.

The medication, which is yet to be finalised, would be dispensed in a lockable box by a pharmacist.

The panel also suggested safeguards including offences for inducing a patient to request assisted dying, proposed offences for falsifying assisted-dying records and administering medication to someone who lacked the sufficient decision-making capacity.