New South Wales became the last state in Australia to make voluntary assisted dying legal after passing legislation to allow terminally ill adults to choose to end their lives. Furthermore, the Upper House spent 10 hours debating the amendments before a final vote of support, making 23 to 15.
However, it will take upto 18 months for the laws to come into effect as the new systems and the government puts the oversight body in place. Also, the law brings NSW in line with all the other states who legalised assisted dying for people who are in the final stages of a terminal illness. Besides, the law is also significant relief for those experiencing pain and intolerable suffering for a long time.
The law clearly states that the person must be 18 or older and needs to be an Australian citizen; they must be likely to die due to a disease within six months or a year, in the case of a neurodegenerative disease or condition. Moreover, the person should have the capacity to make the decision for themselves and should be acting voluntarily without pressure. Also, the patient’s eligibility must be ascertained by two medical practitioners.
Shayne Higson from the advocacy group Dying with Dignity said that she is grateful that the terminally ill NSW residents can decide when and how they die. Also, she mentioned that they would have the right to choose the time and place of their deaths, surrounded by their loved ones.
The legislation is likely to be supported by the majority of the community, with a recent poll conducted by Go Gentle Australia indicating three-quarters of NSW residents support dying people accessing all legal and medical treatment options within their own homes, including aged care facilities.
On the other hand, Animal Justice Party MP Emma Hurst expressed her gratitude for the bill’s passing which had personal significance. Last year, she had spent many hours at her father’s side, who was in the hospital; her father had expressed his wish to choose a safe and dignified death if the piece of legislation was available. Also, MP Emma said that many such families went through the same ordeal while waiting for the legislation or the bill to be passed.
Independent MP Alex Greenwich, who introduced the bill to the parliament, pointed out that the right to allow access to voluntary assisted dying in Australia is far from over. Moreover, the federal government needs to pass laws to allow the territories to legislate the bill.