“THE safest scheme in the world” is how Premier Daniel Andrews describes the state government’s voluntary assisted dying bill due to be introduced to parliament before the end of the year.
Mr Andrews said the government will incorporate all 66 recommendations from the Ministerial Advisory Panel, which was chaired by neurosurgeon and former Australian Medical Association president Dr Brian Owler.
The recommendations cover eligibility for the scheme, how requests to access voluntary assisted dying are made and assessed, oversight and protections.
The government says there will be 68 safeguards to protect vulnerable people from exploitation and coercion.
“This will be the safest scheme in the world, with the most rigorous checks and balances,” Mr Andrews said.
“It means we can have a respectful debate on the principles instead of the technicalities.”
Under the proposed model, a board will be established to review every case of assisted dying, as well as a series of new criminal offences for anyone acting outside the scope of the scheme by coercing or inducing a person to access it.
Go Gentle is one of a number of organisations that have lobbied for legislation permitting those with untreatable or terminal illnesses to have the option of voluntary assisted dying available to them as one of a spectrum of choices.
Established last year, the group argues for the right of all Australians to not have that choice dictated to them according to the ethics, morals or religious beliefs of anyone else.
Campaign director Paul Price said many terminally ill people take their lives in an unsafe and lonely way because they fear prolonged and unbearable suffering.
“The proven international experience is that these laws will be relied on by a very small number of people,” he said. “But a larger number of people will be given comfort in the knowledge that they have a choice.
“We know that more than 75 per cent of the population support this proposal in principle. It is now up to Victorian parliamentarians to reflect on their conscience and support the choices that this framework presents.
“Rigorous, accountable and transparent, the only risk this bill faces is that the small number of its opponents will protest noisily, and that MPs do not hear the views of the silent majority.”
However, the Australian Christian Lobby says the government’s proposal will be a threat to the most vulnerable – the disabled, aged and terminally ill. Any suffering, it says, will become cause for assisted dying.
The group’s Victorian director, Dan Flynn, said the state’s doctors are deeply divided over the issue.
He said it is clear the government does not have a mandate to introduce voluntary euthanasia.
“Before the 2014 election the government told the ACL it had no plans to introduce euthanasia, but would instead make palliative care effective and fully available in Victoria’s regions,” Mr Flynn said. “They have not done this and that is a broken promise.
“This proposed legislation will send a message to terminally ill people that they are a burden to others and it is their duty to relieve that burden on their family.”