VOLUNTARY ASSISTED DYING LEGISLATION
Now that the debate is underway we can provide the exact wording of the legislation and you can view the Voluntary Assisted Dying Bill 2019 here.
GENERAL BACKGROUND ON VOLUNTARY ASSISTED DYING LEGISLATION
Voluntary assisted dying was briefly permitted in the Northern Territory (1996) before the law was repealed by the Federal Government in 1997. Over the past two decades, since the Northern Territory law was overturned, there have been over thirty attempts to pass another assisted dying law. All of those attempts failed up until November 2017, when the Victorian Parliament made history by becoming the first Australian state to pass the Voluntary Assisted Dying Bill 2017.
In 2019 voluntary assisted dying, or voluntary euthanasia, is permitted in 18 jurisdictions around the world. It is legal in Switzerland (Criminal Code 1942), The Netherlands (2002), Belgium (2002), Luxembourg (2009), Germany (2015), Colombia (2015 Court Decision), Canada (2016), Australia (Victoria only 2017) and in 8 jurisdictions in the US including Oregon (1997), Washington (2009), Montana (2010 Court Decision), Vermont (2013), California (2016), Colorado (2016), Washington DC (2016), Hawaii (2018), New Jersey (2019) and Maine (2019).
ELIGIBILITY REQUIREMENTS, METHODS OF ADMINISTRATION AND LEGAL FRAMEWORKS
There are differences between the various laws in regard to the eligibility criteria, the method of administration of the lethal medication and the legal framework, or process.
The American laws (on which the Australian laws are based) are considered the most restrictive, because the individual has to be suffering from a terminal illness, with less than 6 months to live, whereas the European laws do not restrict access based on a terminal illness. In Europe, the eligibility and safeguards are based on a model requiring ‘due care’ on the part of the doctor assisting a patient to die and the patient must be experiencing ‘unbearable and irremediable suffering’ to qualify.
The American laws require self-administration only, whereas under the European and Canadian models, both voluntary assisted dying and voluntary euthanasia are permitted.
It would take up too much room to provide a detailed comparison of the legal frameworks, safeguards and procedures involved in the various assisted dying models around the world. However, according to the Victorian Committee, which travelled to many of these jurisdictions, although the models differ, ‘what they all have in common is robust regulatory frameworks that focus on transparency, patient-centred care and choice.’ Both the Victorian Committee and the Western Australia Joint Select Committee found no evidence of institutional corrosion or the often cited ‘slippery slope’.
Now that the Western Australian debate has commenced you can view The Voluntary Assisted Dying Bill 2019 here.
The WA VAD Bill includes the following eligibility criteria:
(a) the person has reached 18 years of age;
(b) the person —
(i) is an Australian citizen or permanent resident; and
(ii) at the time of making a first request, has been ordinarily resident in Western Australia for a period of at least 12 months;
(c) the person is diagnosed with at least 1 disease, illness or medical condition that —
(i) is advanced, progressive and will cause death; and
(ii) will, on the balance of probabilities, cause death within a period of 6 months or, in the case of a disease, illness or medical condition that is neurodegenerative, within a period of 12 months; and
(iii) is causing suffering to the person that cannot be relieved in a manner that the person considers tolerable;
(d) the person has decision-making capacity in relation to voluntary assisted dying;
(e) the person is acting voluntarily and without coercion;
(f) the person’s request for access to voluntary assisted dying is enduring.