The Law - Stop Victorians Suffering
It is illegal to assist someone to die in Victoria, even if they are close to death, are suffering and asking for it to end. The law needs to change.
In Victoria, it is illegal to assist someone with a terminal illness to end their life. There are many complexities to the law, but otherwise it is clear: a person cannot actively assist another’s death even if the person is terminally ill, has no hope of recovery, is suffering and requesting a quick and peaceful end to their life.
The new law
An Upper House Committee of the Victorian parliament has recommended a new law, designed for Victorians, with strictly limited scope and strong checks and balances.
One of the core features of the Victorian model is that it will most likely be limited to those who are close to death, with only weeks or months to live.
The most important feature is that the law will be completely voluntary: for patients, doctors and also institutions. No-one is ever forced to take part and there are strong safeguards to ensure this.
Where we stand now
Late last year, Premier Daniel Andrews called for government legislation to be drafted. This came as a result of the recommendation of an extensive Victorian cross-party enquiry into end-of-life choices.
Not long after (early in 2017) the Victorian Health Minister, Jill Hennessy, appointed an expert panel to advise on the technical aspects of the legislation and design a workable scheme with strong safeguards and protections for the vulnerable.
The panel consists of medical, legal and consumer experts and is chaired by eminent neurosurgeon Prof Brian Owler, former federal President of the Australian Medical Association.
Minister Hennessy has made it clear that the legislation will have a narrow scope and provide the genuine choice that a very small number of terminally ill Victorians will seek at the end of their lives.
The panel is taking views from experts and members of the community and will finish its work by around mid July.
Some key features of the legislation are likely to be:
- Completely voluntary, for patients, doctors and institutions
- Limited to mentally competent adults
- Limited to those who have weeks and months to live
- Two independent doctors to attest to the patient’s condition
- In the vast majority of cases it will involve a doctor prescribing a lethal drug which the patient may then take without further assistance
- As a last resort it may be that a doctor should be able to assist a person by administering the drug should the person be physically incapable.
- Must be a resident of Victoria.