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Voluntary Assisted Dying

20 March 2019

The Hon. K.J. MAHER (Leader of the Opposition) (16:19): I move:

1. That, in the opinion of this council, a joint committee be appointed to inquire into and report on—

(a) the practices currently being utilised within the medical community to assist a person to exercise their preferences for the way they manage their end of life when experiencing chronic and/or terminal illnesses, including the role of palliative care;

(b) the current legal framework, relevant reports and materials in other Australian states and territories and overseas jurisdictions, including the Victorian and Western Australian parliamentary inquiries into end-of-life choices, Victoria’s Voluntary Assisted Dying Act 2017 and implementation of the associated reforms;

(c) what legislative changes may be required, including an examination of any federal laws that may impact such legislation; and

(d) any other related matter.

2. That, in the event of a joint committee being appointed, the Legislative Council be represented thereon by three members, of whom two shall form a quorum of council members necessary to be present at all sittings of the committee.

3. That this council permits the joint committee to authorise the disclosure or publication, as it thinks fit, of any evidence or documents presented to the committee prior to such evidence being reported to the council.

4. That standing order 396 be suspended as to enable strangers to be admitted when the joint committee is examining witnesses unless the committee otherwise resolves, but they shall be excluded when the committee is deliberating.

5. That a message be sent to the House of Assembly transmitting the foregoing resolution and requesting its concurrence thereto.

3 April 2019

The Hon. J.A. DARLEY (17:35): I rise today to speak in favour of the motion introduced by the Hon. Kyam Maher. I commend the honourable member for introducing this motion and for sharing his difficult personal experience. Saying goodbye to a loved one is never an easy task but there is nothing worse than watching a loved one suffer unnecessarily.

I believe that everyone should be afforded a choice when it comes to their end of life. I acknowledge that if legalised, voluntary assisted dying will not be an option that everyone will choose to take, but it should be just that—an option. Every individual should have a choice to die with dignity and to make a decision that is of fundamental importance to their autonomy. Although palliative care can play an important role in relieving pain for some patients experiencing chronic or terminal illnesses, it is sometimes not enough to alleviate suffering.

Support from the Australian public has grown overwhelmingly over the last two decades in favour of voluntary assisted dying. However, despite research showing a clear majority of support by the public, our laws have fallen behind in upholding the expectations of the community. I acknowledge the numerous attempts made to amend legislation and I appreciate members' ongoing efforts in support of this issue.

As we would not be the first state in Australia to legalise voluntary assisted dying, we can take this opportunity to learn from other states and territories and overseas jurisdictions by reviewing current medical practices, legal frameworks, reports and other relevant material. It is important to establish a strong framework to provide a balance for this matter. The framework should provide protections for the vulnerable whilst enabling those who voluntarily make the choice to end their life to do so with dignity. With those words, I am pleased to support this motion.