WHAT IS HAPPENING IN WESTERN AUSTRALIA?
Western Australian politicians will soon begin debate on a Voluntary Assisted Dying Bill.
In coming weeks, a ministerial expert panel will put forward a detailed framework for the Bill to be tabled in parliament.
This is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to pass a safe and workable Voluntary Assisted Dying law that prevents unnecessary suffering, brings real compassion and transparency to end-of-life care and gives people the choice and control they are so desperate for at life’s end.
Quite simply, current laws do not protect the terminally ill against prolonged and unnecessary suffering at the end of life.
In Western Australia today, if you are dying and suffering beyond medical help:
- it is legal to refuse all medical treatment, food and water, and to die slowly and painfully of starvation and dehydration while your disease takes its course.
- it is legal for a doctor to slowly drug you into a coma, usually accompanied by starvation and dehydration, while your family waits for days, or weeks, for you to die. This can happen without your consent.
- it is legal to end your suffering by committing suicide, often violently and alone. The WA Coroner estimates that one in ten suicides in the state are by people with a terminal or debilitating illness.
But it is not legal to end your suffering painlessly and quickly with the help of a doctor, with family and friends by your side, and at the time of your choosing. You do not even have a legal right to insist that you are given more, or faster, pain relief if that goes against your doctor’s personal beliefs.
This is why we need a voluntary assisted dying (VAD) law. So that we all have a legal right to be protected from unnecessary suffering, so doctors have a legal right to help us, and so there are more compassionate options than having to starve ourselves to death, be slowly drugged into a coma, or take our own lives.
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 enquiry 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 consists of medical, legal and consumer experts and is chaired by former WA Governor, Malcolm McCusker QC.
The panel is currently conducting community consultations and is expected to release its report soon.
Read more about the Voluntary Assisted Dying legislation processes at the WA Department of Health.