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Euthanasia Bill in NSW: What You Need to Know

Australia’s suicide rates are the highest they have been for 10 years. It is the 13th highest cause of death in Australia, higher than breast cancer, pancreatic cancer, liver disease and skin cancer

There are 8 people lost every day.

That’s one every 3 hours.

The highest risk groups are males in their 20’s and males older than 80 years of age. Two very vulnerable groups. While simultaneously spending billions on mental health funding to tackle this enormous issue the government is considering legislating suicide into law in NSW under the Voluntary Assisted Dying Bill, 2017.

This is a private member’s bill being introduced by a group of MPs including the Nationals Deputy Leader Trevor Khan and Greens Senator Mereen Faruqui. The proponents of the bill are pressing ahead and debating will likely start in September,  with the possibility of it being voted on before the end of this year.

The “Voluntary Assisted Dying Bill” has not yet been released, but we expect the components to be similar to a consultation document released in the last few months.

The bill would legalise both physician assisted suicide (PAS) and euthanasia, starting 6 months after the bill passes parliament.

The group for whom it legalises PAS and euthanasia are those who are at least 25 years of age, a resident of NSW, and are suffering from a terminal illness that has been verified as terminal by the primary medical practitioner. That illness must cause severe pain, suffering or incapacity that is unacceptable to the patient. Terminal illness is defined as an illness which will in reasonable medical judgement result in death within 12 months.

The committee have attempted to write in a number of protections around the administration of these lethal drugs in an attempt to make them “safer”.  This includes a jail term of maximum 4 years if there are financial or other incentives for the doctor or other family members for the individual to die. In contrast, the maximum jail term for manslaughter in NSW is 25 years

In addition, the proposal also indicated that the patient should be examined by an independent psychiatrist or psychologist. The psychiatrist and psychologist must provide a written report detailing that the individual requesting is of sound mind, has decision making capacity and has made the decision freely and voluntarily. While this safeguard is good in theory, there is little to chance that in a single consultation a professional will be able to rule out those things. Indeed a 1996 study of psychiatrists in Oregon found only 6% were confident they could rule out the presence of mental illness in a single consultation.

There must be a cooling off period after the signing of the request form. The primary medical practitioner must not provide assistance until 48 hours after the initial request form has been put together.

What we have sadly seen in countries where euthanasia has been legalised is that, despite safeguards, abuses occur and vulnerable people are killed. Indeed a House of Lords report on euthanasia stated

... to create an exception to the general prohibition of intentional killing would inevitably open the way to its further erosion, whether by design, by inadvertence, or by the human tendency to test the limits of any regulation.

Australia needs to support those who are terminally ill and not turn them to suicide. 

We’re encouraging people to sign a petition against the upcoming bill. If you would like to sign it, you can download it here, print it out, get your friends to sign it, and post it to:

The Hon. Greg Donnelly, MLC
Parliament House
Macquarie Street

Only residents of NSW can sign the petition. People under 18 can sign the petition, as long as they can understand and comprehend what they are signing. We need the original physical copies of signed petitions (no photocopies or faxes) by the 15th of September.

We need your support!