- McGowan Government releases safe and compassionate voluntary assisted dying legislation
- 102 safeguards included in the Bill which follows the biggest community consultation ever undertaken by WA Health
- Voluntary Assisted Dying Board to be established to ensure proper adherence to the law
- Legislation follows two major reports over the last two years
The McGowan Labor Government will introduce legislation to legalise voluntary assisted dying in Western Australia into State Parliament.
The Voluntary Assisted Dying Bill 2019 recognises the importance of giving people genuine choice and autonomy over their decision making and will allow eligible people at the end of their life to access voluntary assisted dying, while ensuring a range of mandatory protections, approvals and reviews for these decisions are in place.
The legislation includes 102 safeguards with stringent measures to assess a person's capacity as well as strict eligibility conditions.
In order to access voluntary assisted dying a person would need to be over 18, be an Australian citizen or permanent resident, and have been resident in WA for at least a year.
They would need to have a disease, illness or medical condition that is advanced, progressive and will on the balance of probabilities, cause death within six months, or 12 months if it is a neurodegenerative condition. The condition would also need to be causing suffering to the person that cannot be relieved in a manner that the person considers tolerable.
The request and assessment process requires three requests by the patient; two verbal with a written declaration in between, witnessed by two independent people. There must be a minimum of two independent medical assessments by two doctors, and a final review by the co-ordinating doctor. Palliative care and treatment options available to the patient and the likely outcomes of that care and treatment are among a list of rigorous assessment measures and information included in the medical assessment phase.
Each step in the voluntary assisted dying process, from the first request to the registration of death, must be recorded in an approved form and provided to the Voluntary Assisted Dying Board. The statutory board will ensure proper adherence to the Bill and have a monitoring and advisory role on matters related to voluntary assisted dying.
Labor Members of Parliament will be given a conscience vote following legislative debate on the issue, which is scheduled for the remainder of the Parliamentary year.
The Voluntary Assisted Dying Bill 2019 follows two major reports that included significant consultation across Western Australia:
- The Joint Select Committee report on End of Life Choices - My Life, My Choice which was tabled on August 23, 2018.
- The Final Report of the Ministerial Expert Panel on Voluntary Assisted Dying chaired by Malcolm McCusker AC QC which was tabled in Parliament on June 27, 2019.
The Expert Panel's recommendations, as well as consultation with Government agencies and other key stakeholders, were considered in the drafting of safe and compassionate legislation that is appropriate to Western Australia.
The Bill follows the biggest public and community consultation ever undertaken by WA Health and examined the experience in jurisdictions where similar laws exist, including the Victorian legislation, which came into effect in June this year.
The recommendations that are supported in the legislation are those that can be safely and practically implemented in a culturally diverse and geographically large state like WA, and where possible, consistency with the Victorian legislation has been maintained.
More information and the Voluntary Assisted Dying Bill 2019 can be found at http://www.health.wa.gov.au/voluntaryassisteddying
Comments attributed to Premier Mark McGowan:
"The introduction of the Voluntary Assisted Dying Bill has been a culmination of lengthy and comprehensive consultation on the issue and represents practical policy to ensure the specific needs of the WA community are addressed. I thank everyone for their involvement.
"Many people across the community who have had their parents or loved one pass away in agony want something done, and that's what this is about.
"We have been looking at this issue in its entirety which is why we committed $41 million towards a palliative care package for extra support and enhanced community-based palliative care services across the State. This package ensures palliative care services are maintained and brings the total investment by the State Government for palliative care services over the next four years to $206 million.
"Voluntary Assisted Dying is a significant issue for WA and every Member of Parliament deserves the right to speak and vote on the legislation.
"I would urge for a respectful, factual and dignified debate."
Comments attributed to Health Minister Roger Cook:
"The Government has weighed up the Expert Panel's recommendations and the advice of other key stakeholders to draft safe and compassionate Western Australian appropriate legislation which is in step with prevailing community views.
"This has been a comprehensive process which included the biggest community consultation ever undertaken by the WA Health Department. It has resulted in safe, fully informed and workable legislation and I look forward to the upcoming legislative debate.
"The McGowan Government is wholly committed to ensuring Western Australians continue to have access to high-quality palliative care, and it supports people of all ages with a life-limiting or terminal illness to live their lives as fully and as comfortably as possible.
"Labor MPs will be given a conscience vote on this essential and emotional issue and I hope the outcome will lead to progressive and much-needed laws, which will give eligible people with terminal conditions who are at the end of their lives, some choice over the manner and the timing of their death."
Premier's office - 6552 5000
Health Minister's office - 6552 6500