After almost three years of research, a cross-party parliamentary inquiry, an expert ministerial advisory panel, and countless public submissions, consultations and forums, the Western Australian government has tabled in parliament the WA Voluntary Assisted Dying Bill (2019).
The Bill will now be debated in both the Legislative Assembly and Legislative Council. The proposed law will offer a choice to competent adults with a terminal illness and six months or less to live. For those dying of neuro-degenerative diseases, such as Motor Neurone Disease or MS, the time frame is extended to twelve months.
How we got here
In November 2018, Premier Mark McGowan called for government legislation on Voluntary Assisted Dying to be drafted. This was a result of the recommendation of a year-long WA cross-party inquiry into end-of-life choices outlined in the report 'My Life, My Choice'.
Shortly after this report was published, WA Health Minister Roger Cook appointed an Expert Ministerial Advisory Panel to advise on the technical aspects of Voluntary Assisted Dying legislation and design a workable scheme with strong safeguards and protections
The panel consisted of 13 medical, legal and consumer experts and was chaired by former WA Governor, Malcolm McCusker QC, AC.
Read more about the Voluntary Assisted Dying legislation processes at the WA Department of Health.
How the proposed law would work
The WA Bill is closely modelled on the Victorian Voluntary Assisted Dying Act (2017) which came into effect in Victoria on 19 June 2019.
Key points of the proposed WA law are:
- The person must be 18 years or over; and
- Be a resident of Western Australia for at least 12 months and an Australian citizen or permanent resident; and
- Have decision-making capacity in relation to voluntary assisted dying; and
- Be diagnosed with an incurable disease, illness or medical condition that:
- is advanced, progressive and will cause death; and
- is expected to cause death within 6 months (or 12 months in case of a neuro-degenerative disorder)
- is causing suffering that cannot be relieved in a manner the person deems tolerable.
- To access the regime, a person would have to make two verbal requests and one written request.
- Those requests would have to be signed off by two doctors who are independent of each other.
- There would be a minimum of nine days between the initial request and final approval.
- The choice of lethal medication would be a clinical decision from an approved list of drugs.
- Self-administration would be the preferred method, but in a departure from the Victorian regime, a person could choose for a medical practitioner to administer the drug.
- In another departure from Victoria, doctors and other healthcare workers would be permitted to raise the option of assisted dying with their patients.
- The person must make the request themselves. Nobody else is authorised to make the request, and the request cannot be made via an advance care directive.
- The person must maintain decision-making capacity at all three requests.
- Participating doctors must complete specialist training for voluntary assisted dying.
- Any healthcare worker may decline to participate for any reason, without penalty.
- A Review Board will be established to receive assisted dying reports, to assess reports, and to refer unacceptable cases to disciplinary or prosecutorial authorities.
- Parliament would periodically review the law and summary reports.
This is a once in a generation opportunity to change the law.
MPs need to vote YES to pass a law. It is vital to TELL YOUR MP you want them to VOTE YES.
Please TAKE ACTION NOW to make sure your voice is heard. There is a small minority that opposes Voluntary Assisted Dying, but they are very loudly spreading all sorts of misinformation to sow fear, uncertainty and doubt. We cannot let them drown out our voices of support. So please take action and help make WA a place where you can choose to end your suffering.