Why the Victorian Premier changed his mind on assisted dying law

When Daniel Andrews was elected as Premier of Victoria in 2014 he was a devout Catholic, who was personally opposed to voluntary assisted dying, as was his Catholic deputy, James Merlino. A year and a half later, his beloved father, Bob Andrews died from cancer. On 8 December 2016, Daniel Andrews announced that the Voluntary Assisted Dying Bill would be introduced to Victorian Parliament in the new year, with a Ministerial Advisory Panel established by his government to help draft a “safe and compassionate” legislative framework. This announcement was a response to the recommendation of the Parliament of Victorian Legislative Council Legal and Social Issues Committee Inquiry into End-of-Life Choices Final Report.

Daniel Andrews spoke to ABC Radio Melbourne’s Jon Faine recently about how his father’s death changed his opposition to assisted dying. Even though his father could be described as having had a “good death”, Andrews explained that “When you go through that and experience that and know it so deeply and personally, that can’t help but frame your understanding and your empathy for those who cannot be described as having a good death.” Click for radio interview 17 October 2017

On 8 December, 2016 Premier Daniel Andrews spoke to Leigh Sales on the ABC 7.30 Report, about his stance on voluntary assisted dying. It included the following:  …Oh, look, there’s no criticism of the care my dad got. I was a health minister for many years, but to see it as a family member of a patient, …there are real gaps, palliative care, pain relief as we know it can only go so far. That’s why the coroner terribly has to report to us that over a three or four year period in recent years some 240 Victorians have taken their own life. There’s a gap here and we need to fill that gap with a responsible new set of laws that are compassionate but have safeguards as well.” Click for transcript and video of ABC 7.30 program 8/12/16 (3 min piece from 3.20 to the end)

Apparently, Premier Andrews’ opposition to voluntary assisted dying was never derived from his Catholicism, but from his time as Victorian Health Minister. “In that portfolio, he saw a strained system with too few beds and feared that euthanasia might be grotesquely abused in the name of efficiency. Would patients feel pressured to end their lives? Would doctors or carers feel pressured to encourage it? Was palliative care as good as it could be?” Click for article in The Saturday Paper 28 October 2017 ‘Inside the debate over Victoria’s assisted dying bill