Greenwich releases assisted dying bill with support from MPs, unions
PublishedJuly 19, 2021
Sydney Morning Herald, 19 July 2021
MPs from across the political divide, including the Nationals, Labor, Greens and Shooters, Fishers and Farmers, have confirmed they will support a voluntary assisted dying bill when it is introduced to NSW Parliament.
The Animal Justice Party will also co-sponsor the bill, which has been circulated to all MPs and key stakeholders in preparation for it to be introduced to Parliament late next month, ahead of debate in September.
Sydney MP Alex Greenwich said his draft legislation had also received the endorsement of the Health Services Union, the Paramedics Association, Council on the Ageing, The Older Women’s Network and Cancer Voices.
A survey taken over the past two months of 2344 Health Services Union members found 2087 respondents (89 per cent) supported the union joining the voluntary assisted dying alliance to help advance the draft laws.
A poll by social research firm Newgate Australia for the Council on the Ageing Federation’s State of the (Older) Nation 2021 report also found that 72 per cent of older Australians support voluntary assisted dying.
Mr Greenwich said his bill was a “conservative model” restricted to “people who are terminally ill and whose extreme suffering cannot be alleviated”.
It includes “limiting access to people whose terminal disease will cause death within six months or 12 months for a neurodegenerative condition and who is experiencing suffering that cannot be tolerably relieved.”
There will be multiple assessments for decision-making capacity to ensure the patient is acting voluntarily and without pressure or duress. Two doctors with prescribed experience and mandatory training will be required to assess and approve the patient’s request.
The bill also makes it clear that no health practitioner will be forced to participate in voluntary assisted dying and can conscientiously object or not participate for any reason.
There will also be a number of new offences with high penalties, including life imprisonment for unauthorised administration of substance, seven years for inducing someone to apply for voluntary assisted dying and 12 months for not returning a substance.
Dying with Dignity NSW president Penny Hackett said terminally ill people in NSW should not be denied a peaceful death, when many other Australians have the option.
“Every other Australian state has already moved on this law reform with assisted dying laws already operating in Victoria and Western Australia, having passed in Tasmania and South Australia and soon to be debated in Queensland,” Ms Hackett said.
Mr Greenwich said he had offered all MPs the opportunity to co-sponsor the bill and has had cross-party support, including from Nationals MP Trevor Khan (who led the push for reform in 2017), independent MP Greg Piper and Labor MP frontbenchers Jo Haylen and Jodie Harrison.
Labor MPs Liesl Tesch, Tim Crakanthorp and David Mehan, Greens MP Cate Faehrmann, Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party’s Helen Dalton and the Animal Justice Party’s Mark Pearson are also backing the bill.
Mr Greenwich said he was keen to welcome “as many members as possible to co-sponsor the bill”.
“The urgency of this reform to communities across NSW is represented by the growing multi-partisan coalition backing this conservative and compassionate legislation,” Mr Greenwich said.
Mr Greenwich has circulated the draft legislation to MPs to provide ample time for them to review it before it is debated in Parliament in September.
“COVID has stopped a lot of things, but it hasn’t stopped people being diagnosed with terminal illnesses or experiencing intolerable pain and suffering from that illness, it hasn’t stopped the need for NSW to provide the same compassionate and dignified of life choices as other states,” Mr Greenwich said.