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Friday, December 8, 2023

History made as South Australia’s parliament passes assisted dying law

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Terminally-ill people wishing to end their lives will be able to access voluntary euthanasia after the South Australian parliament passed historic legislation.

The Voluntary Assisted Dying Bill was put to a conscience vote, passing parliament on its 17th attempt in 25 years at about 11am on Thursday.

The final version of the legislation has 68 safeguards to prevent coercion or wrongful death and has been branded by proponents as the “most conservative” to ever come before the South Australian parliament.

It also has a provision that people wishing to die must be SA residents for at least 12 months.

“Parliament has now completely finished its work, it’s now over to the health officials to set up the guidelines, the review board and the training for doctors,” a jubilant SA Labor MP Kyam Maher told Adelaide’s independent media website indaily.com.au.

Maher has been a key driver of the push to legalise voluntary euthanasia following the death of his mother in 2016, eight months after she was diagnosed with terminal pancreatic cancer.

He co-sponsored the bill in 2020.

“Some time in the next 18 months or two years, judging by what other states have gone through, South Australians will be able to have access to voluntary assisted dying and end their life with the dignity with which they’ve lived their life,” he said.

The House of Assembly agreed to one final amendment passed by the Legislative Council on Wednesday night.

Tabled by Liberal MLC Stephen Wade, it means retirement villages cannot prevent a doctor coming into their facility to discuss VAD with one of their residents.

The same requirement was already in place for SA’s aged care facilities.

The Bill will next go to the Governor for assent before the legislation comes into effect in about 18 months.

When it does, SA will be the fourth state in the country to legalise voluntary euthanasia behind Victoria, WA and Tasmania.

A terminal diagnosis and a life expectancy of less than six months, or 12 months for a person with a neurodegenerative disease, must be confirmed for a patient to access the procedure.

The bill also requires patients show they have decision-making capacity and are capable of informed consent, and that they undergo an assessment by two independent medical practitioners.

They must have their request verified by two independent witnesses and must be experiencing intolerable suffering that cannot be relieved.

Mayer said the legislative process to pass the bill was “difficult” given the “passionate and well-held views” on the issue.

“That’s as it should be, it’s an important issue, but I think it is a relief for the parliament and also for those 85 per cent of South Australians that support voluntary assisted dying,” he told indaily.com.au.

The SA bill is based on Victoria’s legislation and system for voluntary assisted dying.

Western Australia recently passed similar laws that come into force later this year, while legislation has also passed in the Tasmanian parliament.

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