16 November 2017
Leader of the Opposition in the Legislative Council, Adam Searle, this afternoon spoke in support of the Voluntary Assisted Dying Bill 2017.
“I believe that terminally ill persons should have the right to choose a dignified end to their life. The alternative, which we now have, is that many are condemned to suffer extreme physical and psychological pain – needlessly,” Mr Searle said.
“I am firmly in favour of significant improvements to the quality of, and access to, palliative care. That is something which should be done, regardless of the debate on this bill. It is not, however, a path that works for everyone.
“With terminal illness, there is often pain and suffering for which there is no available relief.
“Do we simply force people in that circumstance to have an agonising, uncertain and undignified end to their life? Where is the humanity in that?
Mr Searle told the Parliament that there are more safeguards in this legislation than in any other proposal of its kind that he is aware of.
The Voluntary Assisted Dying Bill 2017 eligibility criteria and safeguards restrict access of this legislation to persons who:
- are aged over 25;
- suffer from an illness or condition that is likely to end their life within 12 months;
- are experiencing severe pain, suffering or physical incapacity to an extent they deem unacceptable;
- satisfy two medical practitioners, including a specialist, that they suffer from such an illness or condition;
- satisfy an independent qualified psychiatrist or clinical psychologist that they are of sound mind, have decision-making capacity, and are making their decision freely and voluntarily and after due consideration.
There is a built-in delay or ‘cooling off’ period of 48 hours elapsing between the completion of the certificate of request and the provision of assistance. Close relatives will have the right to challenge any such decision in the Supreme Court. And a person can, of course, decide not to proceed at any time.
“The provisions contained in this bill mean that the risks raised against assisted dying – of exploitation and pressure being brought to bear on the aged, the disabled, those living with mental ill health or persons who are otherwise vulnerable – are simply not there,” Mr Searle said.
“In countries which have legalised assisted dying, the concerns about patient and relative abuse, and for those with mental ill health, have simply not been borne out by the evidence. Nor has palliative care been reduced or abandoned in those jurisdictions. In many places, investment in palliative care has been increased to ensure assisted dying is truly the last resort.
“I understand there are those who are fundamentally opposed to the legalisation of assisted dying. I respect that. No conditions placed in legislation will be able to meet their concerns.
“It is out of compassion for people facing such a cruel end that I believe this legislation is needed. My views have been shaped by the facts, both here and abroad, and also by my own experiences – the death of my father and, recently, of a close family friend.
“The people we are discussing today do not want to die but they are dying anyway. Surely those facing this deserve to be able to exercise control over how much they suffer as they near the end of their life?”
“That is why I will vote for this bill. It should be their choice, not ours.”