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SA's Legislative Council passes voluntary euthanasia bill, Lower House to have the final vote

06 May 2021 5:16 PM | Pip Patston (Administrator)

Source: ABC

South Australia is one step closer to legalising voluntary euthanasia after the state's Upper House voted in support of the voluntary assisted dying bill.


Key points:

  • 14 Legislative Councillors voted in favour of the bill, seven MLCs opposed it
  • It is the 17th attempt to pass a voluntary assisted dying bill through the state's Parliament
  • The bill will go to the Lower House for a final vote

Legislative Council members voted 14 to 7 in favour of the proposed legislation late on Wednesday night.

It was the 17th attempt to pass the measure through South Australia's Parliament in 26 years.

If passed in the Lower House, the proposed new laws will likely to come into force in the state within 18 to 24 months.

The bill, which is modelled on Victoria's voluntary dying laws, includes 70 safeguards and requires approval by two separate doctors within a prescribed time frame.

It proposes access to voluntary euthanasia for people aged 18 years and over who have lived in South Australia for at least one year and have been diagnosed with an incurable illness, disease or medical condition.

Their terminal condition must be deemed to cause suffering and expected to cause death within weeks or months.

Shadow Attorney-General Kyam Maher discusses the bill with ABC Radio Adelaide's Ali Clarke.Download 1.2 MB

Labor MLC and author of the bill Kyam Maher said it was a respectful and deeply emotional debate.

"I want to thank the many South Australians who have been in touch with me on this issue over the last six months. It has been a rare privilege indeed to share some of the most intimate and difficult moments of your life," the Shadow Attorney-General said.

"The fact that you take your time in those last precious moments to try and ensure that others don't have to suffer and go through what you do is an extraordinary thing.

"It's the first time we've passed voluntary assisted dying through a chamber of Parliament in South Australia and now it goes to the Lower House in the coming weeks."

Concerns loved ones could feel 'pressured'

Labor MP Clare Scriven told Parliament she would not support the bill and voted against the proposed legislation.

"No-one wants to see someone they love suffer, but there is clear evidence for those who care to look that safeguards in voluntary assisted dying are ignored or diluted in practice once voluntary euthanasia becomes legal," she said.

"We need to ask do we want our loved ones to feel pressured to end their life, do we want our loved ones to feel they are a burden on society or on their family, do we want our loved ones to feel they have a duty to ask to die prematurely?"

Liberal MP Dennis Hood also voted against the bill and instead advocated for better palliative care.

"I contend that we should give these individuals who are in this precarious situation the opportunity for their pain to be relieved, before they take what might be the ultimate solution if you like and that is accept assisted suicide," Mr Hood said.

The legislation will now be sent to the Lower House for a final vote.

If passed in the Lower House, South Australia will become the fourth state in Australia to legalise euthanasia.  

Voluntary assisted dying is lawful in Victoria, while Western Australia and Tasmania also passed legislation in favour of euthanasia.

Tasmania's House of Assembly voted in favour of the proposed laws in March. Legislation allowing the process in Western Australian will come into effect on July 1.

SA's Health Minister Stephen Wade voted in favour of the bill and said there was significant value in having national consistency of voluntary assisted dying legislation in Australia.

"Consistency would support access, it would support quality and safe practice and it would reduce the pressure for what is sometimes called medical tourism," he said.

"I support South Australia joining our sister states in enacting the Australian model of voluntary assisting dying."

SA Greens parliamentary leader Tammy Franks said it was important that enough time was set aside for a full debate on the matter.

"We've got it through one house, now we need to see it pass the Lower House," she said.

"It's a conscience vote and a private members' bill, which means it often goes to languish in the one hour or so afforded for private members' business in the Lower House. I would hope that this bill will be treated differently.

"Each and every MP will have to go through all of the fine detail, consider their position and debate the well over 100 clauses."

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