People in NSW to have access to voluntary assisted dying
After a number of attempts over several years, the NSW Parliament passed legislation on 19 May 2022 that will see the introduction of voluntary assisted dying (VAD) arrangements in the state. People aged over 18 in NSW with a terminal illness who will die within six months (or twelve months in the case of a person with a neurodegenerative condition) who are experiencing unbearable suffering will have the same choice to end their life at the time of their choosing that is available to their families and friends in all other states.
Around 90 amendments were debated, and defeated, in the Legislative Council’s consideration of the Voluntary Assisted Dying Bill 2021. This included one that would have banned the provision of VAD in nursing and aged care facilities.
It is likely, based on the timeframes for the commencement of VAD in the other states and New Zealand, that it will be 12-18 months before the provisions commence. There is a considerable amount of work that needs to be done, including the establishing of governance arrangements to oversee VAD and the identification and training of medical personnel who will be involved in implementing an eligible person’s wishes.
It is pleasing that the Premier, Dominic Perrotet, has indicated, since the passage of the legislation, that the NSW Government will now provide more funding and resources to support the provision of palliative care in the state. He had said during the Legislative Assembly debate of the VAD bill in late 2021, and in opposing the introduction of voluntary assisted dying, that the NSW Government had under-performed in its funding and provision of adequate palliative care.
A boost to palliative and end-of-life care in NSW is consistent with what has occurred in most other countries and states where VAD arrangements are operating.
Cancer Voices NSW is also pleased that the commencement of VAD is an achievement that has resulted from our advocacy efforts over the last two to three years. This included CVN’s membership of the NSW VAD Alliance. Our advocacy included letters to MPs and a submission to the Legislative Council inquiry into the draft legislation in late 2021 and early 2022.
It is likely that the focus of those in favour of voluntary assisted dying will now turn to the Australian Parliament, given that people in the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory are unable to access voluntary assisted dying as a result of federal legislation enacted by the Howard Government in 1997. The Euthanasia Laws Act prevents the Northern Territory Parliament and the ACT Legislative Assembly from enacting legislation that would provide the same choice for their residents that is available to every other adult Australian.