The New South Wales Parliament is set to debate whether to allow terminally ill adults to legally end their lives. The voluntary assisted dying bill is expected to come before Parliament this sitting year, and a cross-party working group is currently finalising draft legislation.
Voluntary euthanasia or ‘assisted death’ is a legal and moral minefield, and naturally divides the community. Currently it is illegal to provide any person with the means or to aid them in ending their life, regardless of whether they are terminally ill. Euthanasia is also illegal across New Zealand, with two attempts to change the law failing to get through Parliament.
The NSW Premier Mike Baird and Opposition Leader Luke Foley have both told Fairfax that while they can see the need to have both sides of this issue debated, they themselves are personally opposed to changing the law.
Premier Baird said that the issue was brought home to him when he met a couple dealing with terminal illness. “While this hasn’t changed my mind, it has given me a clear understanding that there are two sides of this issue, and that all views deserve respect,” he said.
The working group for the legislation have released a statement, saying that discussion around law reform on this issue is necessary. “The prolonging of pain, suffering and distress, for both the terminally ill and their families, is not necessary; the fundamental principle behind the call for legislating to allow for assisted dying is to provide dignity to people who wish to pass peacefully and on their own terms.”
The proposal comes just months after a voluntary euthanasia was narrowly defeated in the South Australian Parliament, and as the Victorian Parliament prepares to consider its own legislation later this year. The proposed bill in Victoria would allow adults of sound mind who were suffering from a terminal illness, to choose to end their life. Checks have been put in place in this bill, including the need for the request to be put in writing and for the request to be approved by two doctors.
Media personality Andrew Denton has become strong advocate for euthanasia, after watching his dad suffer through a terminal illness nineteen years ago. In campaigning for change, Denton has referred to the fact that public polling shows over 70 per cent of Australians are in favour of legalising euthanasia.
The draft legislation is expected to be released for public consultation next month.