Debate on Voluntary Assisted Dying Resumes in NSW Parliament – Hope 103.2

Debate on Voluntary Assisted Dying Resumes in NSW Parliament

If passed, it will allow patients to access assisted dying if they meet a set criteria; but what are the alternatives, and how can Christians respond to this debate.

Listen: Hope Mornings Katrina Roe speaks with Mike Baird, CEO of HammondCare, on how Christians can respond to this debate.

By Amy ChengFriday 19 Nov 2021Hope MorningsNewsReading Time: 4 minutes

Discussions about euthanasia in NSW are back on the table again after a debate on the voluntary assisted dying bill resumed in parliament last week.

The bill was introduced to NSW Parliament on Oct 14 by Independent MP Alex Greenwich, with the final vote on the legislation expected in weeks, however, it was delayed.

The debate on the bill resumed in the lower house last Friday, with extra sitting days created on Fridays, a day where parliament usually does not sit, to try and deal with the bill this year.

The debate allows MPs to add their voice to the conscience debate and Mr Greenwich would like the debate to be wrapped up by next week.

The bill will likely go to a vote next Thursday and debate will then begin about suggested amendments, according to Australian Associated Press.

The State Government and Labor have both agreed to send the bill to an upper house inquiry.

What is the bill?

The voluntary assisted dying bill is a proposal that legislation be created to “provide for, and regulate access to, voluntary assisted dying for persons with a terminal illness”.

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If passed, it will allow patients to access assisted dying if they’ve been given less than six months to live, or 12 months if their medical condition is neurodegenerative, such as dementia.

The patient must be an adult who is either an Australian citizen or has resided in Australia for at least three years.

Medical practitioners can refuse to take part in the process if they have a conscientious objection to voluntary assisted dying or are unable to fulfil the request for other reasons.

If passed, it will allow patients to access assisted dying if they’ve been given less than six months to live, or 12 months if their medical condition is neurodegenerative

Who supports the bill?

The bill is supported by 28 MPs, including 12 Labor MPs, 12 crossbenchers and four government MPs.

Premier Dominic Perrottet, who is opposed to voluntary assisted dying, will not support the bill but is allowing government MPs a conscience vote, which allows them to vote according to their own personal conscience rather than along party lines.

Labor Leader Chris Minns will also not be supporting the bill but will allow his MPs to vote.

The Cabinet agreed that a conscience vote be granted to Liberal MPs and the Liberal’s party room also endorsed that position.

Alternatives to euthanasia

Mike Baird, CEO of HammondCare and former premier of NSW, is a strong advocate for palliative care.

“At HammondCare, more than a third of our patients that come into our palliative care hospital actually end up not dead,” he told Hope 103.2.

“It’s expected that they’re there for their last few weeks or days but more than a third actually go home.

“They have many more experiences, whether that be weeks or months more than anticipated, and that time will be missed.”

The bill is supported by 28 MPs, including 12 Labor MPs, 12 crossbenchers and four government MPs.

Advocates of voluntary assisted dying sometimes dismiss palliative care as a viable option, believing it to be an endless way to keep someone alive when they’re ready to go, however, Mr Baird disagrees.

“Palliative care doesn’t promote futile treatments, it’s really about exceptional holistic care that just eases, so it doesn’t influence the timing but it just uplifts that last experience,” he said.

The debate around euthanasia is also a personal one for the former premier, who lost his mother earlier this year.

She had been battling a terrible disease for a number of years.

“As difficult as that was to watch, even now I still get emotional thinking about it, there were key moments where we were reminded that mum was still there and she was there in a powerful way and a deeply human way,” Mr Baird said.

“Palliative care that came…towards the end of mum’s life took away the pain, really gave the family comfort, and to me that is the option.

“Not to end mum’s life but to enable the passing to be as pain free as possible, as holistic as possible and to enable us as family and friends to still connect.”

How can Christians respond to the debate?

Mr Baird believes it’s important for Christians to be respectful of different opinions.

“I think we have to be respectful and there are some people in very difficult circumstance and desperate for it to end,” he said.

“We have to accept that and understand that and understand different views but unashamedly say we believe that every life matters.”

“There were key moments where we were reminded that mum was still there and she was there in a powerful way and a deeply human way,” – Mike Baird, CEO of HammondCare

How does NSW compare to other states?

NSW is the only Australian state that has not passed euthanasia laws. The issue was debated in 2017 but voted down in the Upper House by one vote.

Western Australia is the most recent state to have passed laws on this issue, with voluntary assisted dying being made legal in the state as of July 1.

Victoria was the first state in Australia to legislate voluntary assisted dying in 2017.

What happens now?

The lower house needs to debate and vote on the legislation. If it passes the lower house, it will go to an inquiry before being reviewed and voted on by the upper house.

Mr Greenwich is pushing for the premier to allow a vote in the upper house this year before results of an inquiry are known, but if that doesn’t happen, the final vote will be delayed until next year, according to news.com.au.

If it passes the upper house, it will take another 18 months before people will be able to access voluntary assisted dying medication.