Western Australia introduces its Voluntary Assisted Dying Bill

On Tuesday 6 August 2019, the same day that Belinda Teh completed her ‘brave walk’ from Melbourne to Perth, the McGowan Government released details of its much anticipated Voluntary Assisted Dying Bill.

Speaking from the steps of Parliament House, the Premier Mark McGowan told hundreds of supporters that these laws are about showing kindness and compassion to those West Australians who are in their last weeks, days or months of life.

“It’s about ensuring that those people who choose not to suffer an agonising death can make that choice. It is the ultimate act of personal choice, it is the ultimate act of kindness and compassion and it allows an individual themselves to make that choice in relation to their own life,” said the Premier.

He acknowledged that there are thousands, or probably hundreds of thousands of people in our community who have seen loved ones die in awful circumstances.

“We want to ensure that those families and those people can avoid that painful end that is avoidable, if they choose to do so,” he said.

With more than 100 safeguards the Voluntary Assisted Dying Bill is more conservative than expected; however, DWDWA believes this bill strikes the right note and will have broad political support, which is critical for the passage of the bill through the parliament.

Largely based on the Victorian model, the proposed law would allow an individual with a terminal illness and less than six months to live, to legally end their lives.

Who would be eligible to end their life?

The WA bill makes it very clear that voluntary assisted dying would only be available to a person who is:

  • 18 years of age or older and has decision-making capacity in relation to voluntary assisted dying
  • Terminally ill with a condition that is causing intolerable suffering
  • Likely to die within six months, or 12 months for neurodegenerative conditions
  • An Australian citizen or permanent resident
  • A WA resident for at least 12 months

How would it work?

To access the regime, an eligible person would have to make three requests to die  two verbal and one written.

Those requests would have to be signed off by two doctors who are independent of each other.

There would be a minimum of nine days between the initial request and final approval.

A patient could administer the lethal drug themselves or choose for a medical or nurse practitioner to do it for them.

A Voluntary Assisted Dying Board would ensure the law was being properly followed through each step of the process.

New criminal offences would also be introduced to prevent patients from being coerced into accessing the regime.

Dying with Dignity WA welcomed the legislation acknowledging that it was a result of extensive consultation with the community and stakeholders.

“We believe this bill to legalise the option of voluntary assisted dying for people who are suffering at the end of life, provides a safe and compassionate framework with appropriate safeguards for patients and the doctors,” said Steve Walker, President of DWDWA.

“The most important thing now is that debate on this legislation is open and respectful,” he said.

The Parliamentary debate on the Voluntary Assisted Dying Bill will begin in early September. Members of Parliament will be given a conscience vote, which means they can vote according to their own personal conscience instead of along party lines.

“We trust that Members of Parliament, no matter their political persuasion, voting on this important legislation will reflect the views of the community and legislate for a safe and compassionate voluntary assisted dying law,” said Mr Walker.

All 59 members of the Legislative Assembly and 36 members of the Legislative Council will be able to have their say on this bill so that process is expected to take until the end of the year.

Like in Victoria, if the bill does pass, the voluntary assisted dying law would not come into effect for another 18 months.