In a historic moment for the state of Victoria, Australia, voluntary euthanasia laws have passed.
A 28-hour marathon sitting ended with a 22-18 vote in support of voluntary assisted dying for the terminally ill, positioning Victoria as the first state in Australia to legalise euthanasia once the bill is ratified and put into effect.
The bill means that patients who are suffering unbearable pain from terminal disease will have the dignity and right to choose a doctor-assisted death. To be eligible patients must have lived in Victoria for 12 months or more, be of sound mind and at least 18 years old. After a three-step request process including independent medical assessments, the patient would have access to the lethal drug within 10 days.
Having passed in the lower house in October, the bill was presented to the upper house this week. One of the specifics determined included tightening the eligibility so that only patients with six months or less to live could access the scheme. 12 months was the initial proposal, which patients with certain conditions such as multiple sclerosis and motor neurone disease will still be able to access.
Premier Daniel Andrews said the law was a step in the right direction for human rights. “Today’s all about emotion, and it’s all about compassion,” he told Radio NZ. “It’s about providing for those who have for too long been denied a compassionate end the control, the power over the last phase of their journey. It’s about giving to them that control.”
Opponents of the bill questioned what type of drug would be used in the assisted deaths and how accessible it would be. Issues were also raised in regards to the effect on the medical professional assisting in the death. However, the laws specify that the patient must administer the drug themselves excluding instances where they are physically unable to.
After being ratified by the lower house, the bill is expected to be put into effect in 2019.