Australians watched this week as Victoria’s State parliament debated the government-sponsored Voluntary Assisted Dying Bill 2017.
The bill – which would allow assisted suicide and euthanasia for terminally ill patients with less than 12 months to live – has been fiercely criticised by parliamentarians from all sides of politics, and even faced a scare from Deputy Premier James Merlino, who on Wednesday evening unsuccessfully attempted to put the legislation on an indefinite hold. In a marathon 26 hour sitting of parliament on Thursday and Friday, opponents of the legislation proposed more than 150 amendments, all of which were rejected by the government. The Bill passed on Friday morning with a majority of 47 to 37.
Analysts believe that the result of the Victorian bill will have a massive impact on the outcome of euthanasia debates currently occurring in other Australian States and territories. New South Wales is currently debating very similar legislation to that proposed in Victoria, and Western Australia has convened a parliamentary committee to examine “end of life choices”.
In a shock 11th hour intervention, former Australian Prime-Minister Paul Keating described the proposed Victorian legislation as “bald utopianism” and called on politicians to vote against the bill:
“What it means is that the civic guidance provided by the state ... is voided when it comes to the protection of our most valuable asset; the essential human rights of the citizenry, especially and particularly those in either a fragile state or state of mind or fragile period…To do or to cause to abrogate the core human instinct to survive and live for the spirit to hang on against physical deprivation, is to turn one’s back on the compulsion built into the hundreds of thousands of years of our evolution.”
The head of the Australian Medical Association, Michael Gannon, also expressed his staunch opposition to the bill:
“Euthanasia and assisted suicide are at odds with modern and ancient codes of medical ethics. Every life is precious: the 10-year-old boy in Roebourne with foetal alcohol spectrum disorder and severe autism, the 36-year-old veteran with post-traumatic stress disorder, the 68-year-old woman in Morwell with metastatic cancer and no children to be with her as she dies.”
The bill will now move to Victorian Legislative Council, where supporters are hopefully it has the numbers to pass. Debate in the Upper House will begin early next month.
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