Trevor breaks down the Voluntary Assisted Dying Bill
As a parliamentarian, you are afforded the chance to effect real change for the people of NSW if you choose to embrace the opportunity. For me, I am impacted by the experience of watching my father die a slow death over three and a half years, after being left in a nursing home incontinent and bedridden after a severe stroke.
I refused my father’s request to assist him to die, and that is a memory I live with since. It is not fair or just that our current laws preclude terminally ill people who are facing a painful and imminent death from having the means to die on their own terms and with dignity.
The Voluntary Assisted Dying Bill provides a framework for terminally ill patients experiencing severe pain or suffering with a means to request assistance from a medical practitioner to end their lives. The Bill has been developed by the NSW Parliamentary Working Group on Assisted Dying, a cross-party group of MPs also including Lee Evans (Liberal), Lynda Voltz (Labor), Alex Greenwich (Independent), and Mehreen Faruqi (Greens).
Under the framework, the patient is required to make a request and be assessed by a primary medical practitioner. The practitioner must be satisfied that in their reasonable medical judgement the patient is suffering from a terminal illness with less than 12 months to live. The patient is then required to be assessed by a secondary specialist in the illness that the patient is suffering from, who must confirm the primary medical practitioner’s prognosis. A psychiatrist or clinical psychologist is then required to determine the patient has decision-making capacity and is undertaking the decision voluntarily. After a 48 hour cooling off period, the patient would then be able to obtain a prescription of a substance to end their lives at a time of their choosing.
It is a conservative Bill. Indeed, it is likely that my father would not have been eligible under this framework. He would not have been found to have decision-making capacity – an essential safeguard in the Bill.
Since the release of the Exposure Draft of the Voluntary Assisted Dying Bill, the Working Group has hosted community information sessions across the state to hear from the wider community across NSW. This is to ensure that the framework in the Bill meets the high expectations of the community on this particular issue, and to hear directly from local residents their suggestions and views on the Bill.
In addition to community information sessions hosted in Sydney, the Central Coast, and the South Coast, the Working Group hosted information sessions in Port Macquarie with Leslie Williams MP, and in Forster Tuncurry with Stephen Bromhead MP. These sessions were well-attended by local residents. A number of Nationals MPs have also been conducting surveys of their electorates, to gauge the community’s views on the Bill.
It is clear that there is overwhelming support in NSW and across regional Australia for voluntary assisted dying. The Bill will be introduced into the NSW Parliament in the September sitting period, and it is my hope that parliamentarians reflect the views of their electorate, and also embrace the opportunity to effect real change in people’s lives. I hope that upon passage of this Bill, we not only help ease the suffering of those patients who would be eligible under the framework, but also the distress experienced by friends, families and loved ones.