VAD legislation update
The introduction of voluntary assisted dying (VAD) arrangements in NSW continues to progress, albeit slowly, with further action by NSW politicians still required to provide those with a terminal illness the right to choose the time and manner of their death.
The Voluntary Assisted Dying Bill 2021 was considered by the NSW Legislative Assembly in October and November last year. A number of amendments to the bill were passed, all of which were considered by the independent member for Sydney, Alex Greenwich (who presented the draft bill to Parliament) to have strengthened its provisions.
The bill is now being considered by the Legislative Council, with the issue still having some time to play out. The bill had previously been referred to the Legislative Council’s Standing Committee on Law and Justice (‘the Committee’) for review, which took place between December 2021 and February 2022. The Committee’s report was tabled on 22 February, the first sitting day of Parliament this year.
The Committee’s report, which can be read here (https://www.parliament.nsw.gov.au/lcdocs/inquiries/2838/Report%20No%2079%20-%20Voluntary%20Assisted%20Dying%20Bill%202021.pdf) provides an informative, balanced overview of voluntary assisted dying. It made only one recommendation:
That the Legislative Council proceed to consider the Voluntary Assisted Dying Bill 2021.
Debate in the Legislative Council commenced after the tabling of the report, starting with the ‘2nd reading speech’ by ALP member Adam Searle, who has carriage of the draft bill in the upper house. Contributions to the debate by other Legislative Council members commenced on 23 March and continued on 30 March with, to date, 33 of the 42 LC members having done so. Twenty-two of those who have spoken have been in favour of VAD arrangements in NSW. Alex Greenwich has stated that ‘while 22 ‘yes’ votes sounds like a clear majority, two were absent with COVID last week and in the next sitting week one will have vacated their seat. There are no ‘pairs’ in a conscience vote and the sheer closeness of the numbers means we can’t take anything for granted.’
Dying With Dignity NSW (DWD) has organised two public rallies outside Parliament House to coincide with the debate in the upper house. The rallies have taken as their theme ‘They died waiting’, with images of a number of people in NSW who, despite their wishes, died or committed suicide before being able to use voluntary assisted dying arrangements.
DWD’s petition to the Legislative Council is still open, and can be signed here: https://dwdnsw.org.au
It is expected that the more detailed consideration of the draft legislation, which involves the consideration of amendments to the bill (in what is referred to as ‘In Committee’), will commence in May this year. CVN will continue to monitor the parliamentary progress on voluntary assisted dying, with consideration being given to further advocacy on the issue as a follow-up to the letter sent to lower house members last year. For more information on this letter, see the December 2021 CVN Newsletter here (pp.6-7): https://www.cancervoices.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2021/12/NEWSLETTER_CVN-December2021_FINAL-1.pdf