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Tuesday, August 9, 2022

Tensions high as NSW euthanasia law approaches last hurdles

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Euthanasia advocates are hopeful NSW is on the cusp of passing laws allowing terminally ill patients to peacefully end their life.

Members of the NSW upper house are expected to hold a final vote on the Voluntary Assisted Dying bill this sitting week, as it resumes debate over dozens of amendments.

While opponents of the bill have proposed more than 40 amendments, supporters believe a lengthy debate on Wednesday, continuing through to midnight, should allow it to progress to a vote.

Independent MP for Sydney Alex Greenwich said some of the proposed amendments were “cruel” and the bill had already undergone lengthy debate in the lower house, and a parliamentary inquiry.

“All of a sudden we’re seeing amendments to deny access to people to voluntary assisted dying in their home if their home is in aged care, and quite frankly, that is cruel and unnecessary,” he said on Tuesday.

(This) is the last parliamentary chamber in the last state in Australia to consider legalising voluntary assisted dying. In New South Wales, the people of this state don’t die any differently to Australians.

Go Gentle Australia founder and director, Andrew Denton

Supporting members are hopeful they have a blocking majority for “all these hostile amendments” to the bill, Greenwich said, adding they would work in good faith with any who held genuine concerns.

Labor MLC Adam Searle said it was important the bill passed this week.

“The will of the house, both in the speeches given by members and in the vote is clear,” he said.

If amendments are accepted, the bill will need to return to the lower house and may pass late on Wednesday or Thursday.

Go Gentle Australia founder and director Andrew Denton spoke among a group of politicians, unions and charity organisations outside the NSW parliament, urging upper house members to pass the bill.

Just as my brother begged for mercy when he was dying, I’m now begging the members the upper house of New South Wales parliament … to vote on and pass that legislation.

Cathy Barry, whose brother Tom died after a prolonged battle with metastatic facial carcinoma

“(This) is the last parliamentary chamber in the last state in Australia to consider legalising voluntary assisted dying,” Mr Denton said.

“In New South Wales, the people of this state don’t die any differently to Australians.”

Cathy Barry, whose brother Tom died after a prolonged battle with metastatic facial carcinoma, is hoping the bill will finally pass.

“He died in excruciating pain and it was a prolonged period of terrible suffering,” Barry said on Tuesday.

“Just as my brother begged for mercy when he was dying, I’m now begging the members the upper house of New South Wales parliament … to vote on and pass that legislation.

“Every day that goes by somebody else is dying like my brother died.

“I can’t stand the thought of that.”

Barry has campaigned outside the parliament for two straight weeks.

Last week the upper house passed voluntary assisted dying legislation in a 20-to-17 vote, with four supporters of the bill absent.

Some 46 amendments were made to the bill before it passed in the lower house with a majority of 20 votes.

Greenwich introduced the bill in 2020 with 28 co-sponsors, more than any other piece of legislation in Australian history.

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AAP

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