Second Australian state moves one step closer to legalising assisted death
Western Australia is one step closer to legalising voluntary euthanasia for terminally ill adults after the state parliament’s lower house passed proposed government laws on Tuesday.
44 of the 59 lower house MPs voted in favour of the bill, but the vote in the upper house later this month is expected to be tighter.
Should the upper house pass the proposed legislation, WA will become the second state in Australia to adopt assisted dying laws, after Victoria.
The first vote came as hundreds of euthanasia supporters rallied at the parliament house to urge MPs to back the bill.
The proposed laws would allow terminally ill adults who are likely to die within six months – or one year if they have a neurodegenerative condition – to take a drug to end their lives or ask for medical assistance to do so.
“This bill will protect vulnerable people in ways that do not exist now,” Health Minister Roger Cook said.
“This is a watershed moment. We must have the courage and confidence to uphold these freedoms for the most vulnerable in our society.”
Rex Tion, one of the rally’s attendees, said his late grandfather was a “strong advocate” for assisted dying.
“He expressed numerous times that he wanted his way out,” Tion told WAtoday.
“Unfortunately he never got his way, but I’m hopeful that when my time comes, I’ll at least have a choice.
“Judging from what I’ve seen, there are a number of safeguards in place and I’m confident that there’s enough checks and balances to ensure that people are not being taken advantage of.”
Some critics said the bill should have more safeguards in place, including a requirement for the patients to undergo a psychiatric assessment before they could access the option.
“There exists the very real [opportunity] for abuse,” said Labor MP Michelle Roberts. “The fact that we need safeguards means there is something inherently worrying about the principle.”
Roberts also said doctors may make mistakes in estimating life expectancy, citing the case of former Labor MP Batong Pham who unexpectedly survived a stroke. “No-one can tell me doctors don’t make mistakes.”