Voluntary assisted dying law passes South Australia's Parliament on way to becoming law

10 Jun 2021 12:27 PM | Philip Patston (Administrator)

Source: ABC

A bill to legalise euthanasia has passed South Australia's Lower House for the first time and is now all but certain to become law.


Key points:

  • MPs debated the legislation into the early hours of Thursday
  • Several amendments were added to the bill and it now has to go back to the Upper House to be ratified
  • If endorsed, South Australia will become the fourth state in the country to legalise assisted dying

The major milestone was the 17th attempt in 26 years to legalise voluntary assisted dying in South Australia.

MPs debated the legislation for six hours into the early hours of Thursday before voting 33 to 11 in favour of giving terminally ill patients the right to request a lethal drug to end their lives.

Several amendments were added to the bill, which now has to go back to the Upper House to be ratified before euthanasia can be legalised.

If endorsed there, South Australia will become the fourth state in the country to legalise euthanasia.

A man in a suit speaks to people holding protest signs on the steps of a classical building

The bill was introduced to the Lower House by Labor MP Susan Close, who said it was a historic night for South Australia.

"It will be, in my view, the right thing, but importantly in the view of countless South Australians, something that they will be grateful we took on, we did seriously, and I hope turned into law," she said.

The bill was first introduced to the Upper House by Labor MP Kyam Maher and passed in May after members voted 14 to 7 in favour.

Mr Maher said he became an advocate for voluntary assisted dying after witnessing his mother die in pain from cancer.

"After she passed away I knew, being a supporter wasn't enough anymore, I had to do everything I could," he said.

"We heard stories tonight about other people who had had those same types of moments. It was emotional, and it was Parliament and our democracy at its best.

"It showed how Parliament can and should be."

A 19th century classical building with columns

Late on Wednesday night MPs went through the 117 clauses, scrutinising the finer details and debating amendments.

One of the amendments would allow private hospitals to exercise conscientious objection to euthanasia and instead refer patients seeking the procedure to other institutions.

Opposition leader Peter Malinauskas supported the amendment and said contemplating the bill had weighed on him in recent months.

"It is a subject, quite frankly … I personally have struggled with," he said.

If the amended bill is endorsed by the Upper House it will go to the Governor for royal assent.

After that, the new laws are expected to come into effect within 18 to 24 months.

Victoria, Western Australia and Tasmania have already made voluntary assisted dying legal.

SA's legislation, which is modelled on Victoria's laws, includes over 70 safeguards and has been described as among the most conservative in the world.

Eligible patients must be 18 year or over, an Australian citizen and have lived in South Australia for at least one year.

They must have a terminal condition deemed to cause intolerable suffering and expected to cause death within weeks or months.

The process requires approval by two separate doctors within a prescribed time frame.


Comments

  • 10 Jun 2021 2:52 PM | Anonymous
    Congratulations to shadow Attorney General Kyam Maher, a Labor Upper House MP of Aboriginal descent who introduced this good piece of legislation. And our thanks to Labor MP Susan Close who had carriage of it in the Lower House. And not forgetting South Australia's small army of volunteers who campaigned, marched, held vigils, wrote letters to MPs and to newspapers, and made submissions.
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