Victoria’s ‘Inquiry Into End of Life Choices’ has recommended the legalisation of assisted dying. The report is a sizable document – the summary alone is 40 pages – but the authors saved the most controversial matters till last. After almost 50 recommendations about palliative care and advanced care planning, the report concludes with an unequivocal recommendation that Victoria legalise assisted dying. The final recommendation (no. 49) is:
“That the Victorian Government introduce a legal framework providing for assisted dying, by enacting legislation based on the assisted dying framework outlined in this Report”
The recommendation is followed by an annex outlining a framework for assisted dying, including criteria for eligibility and a proposed system for oversight and review. The sorts of patients who would be eligible would be over 18 years, suffering from a serious and incurable illness, and “at the end of their life (final weeks and months of life)”.
Annexed to the report are two dissenting opinions from committee members. Inga Peulich MLC summarized the concerns about human destruction via assisted suicide:
Any accidental loss of life – even the loss of one life, means such a regime cannot be justified, just as the loss of life, due to capital punishment, deliberate or due to a possible miscarriage of justice, cannot be justified and was the reason for its abolition.
Dr Rodney Syme, vice-president of Dying with Dignity Victoria, said he was “delighted” by the report, particularly the approach it took to dismissing “fear-based arguments” against the law. Syme said he was confident parliament would pass the laws if both major parties allowed a conscience vote.
Writing for Online Opinion, Paul Russell, the director of the advocacy group HOPE, suggested the report was a ‘sugar coated pill’ that would make for bad policy if enacted:
“The Majority Report in its conclusions and recommendations on assisted suicide, have presented the Parliament and the people of Victoria with a sugar-coated poison pill. We hope that the government of the day will see through this charade and act at all times to protect vulnerable people while prioritising palliative care.”
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