Assisted dying bill passes into WA law

• Voluntary assisted dying supporters gathered on parliament’s final sitting day this year to congratulate Labor ministers Amber-Jade Sanderson and Roger Cook, and premier Mark McGowan for helping it pass into law.

“JUST move it, please,” Maylands Labor MP Lisa Baker called from the speaker’s chair as the 11th of 55 amendments to WA’s voluntary assisted dying bill was read out in parliament.

The bill was passed into law just before 6pm on the final sitting day of the year, December 10.

In his closing remarks premier Mark McGowan said “this is something that has been talked about and attempted for decades; success was never guaranteed or assured.

“In fact, I believed there was a good chance of failure.

“At various times over the last two and a half years, I thought that we may fail.

“We had to summon the courage to match that of the public, to meet them along the way.

“There is often cynicism that Australian politics cannot do difficult things anymore and our parliaments are paralysed despite what people would like to see happen.

“Today we showed that at least in Western Australia we can do big things.”

Labor’s health minister Roger Cook acknowledged it had been a long and difficult process with more than 175 hours of debate, and paraphrased Prussian statesman Otto von Bismarck: “If you like laws and sausages, you should never watch either being made.”

On the final day of debate Darling Range Liberal MP Alyssa Hayden dismissed Labor’s claims the Opposition had unnecessarily hindered the process.

“The [health] minister, the premier, and the attorney general said that this bill was perfect and did not need any amendments, yet 55 amendments have come into place,” Ms Hayden noted.

Many were suggested by upper house Liberal MP Nick Goiran.

Glass of wine

One change was dubbed the “glass of wine” or “dinner party conversation” amendment and makes it clear that initial requests to use VAD have to be during a medical consultation.

“This is a critical amendment,” Cottesloe Liberal MP David Honey said.

“Someone would have been able to request access to this procedure using a mobile phone with FaceTime and simply ringing a medical practitioner and requesting that they participate.

“I know that many medical practitioners who have actually read the bill were extremely concerned that they could be engaged in this process in any setting, and not in the normal setting of a patient requesting a consultation.”

Opposition leader Liza Harvey, an opponent of VAD, was more forgiving than some of her Liberal colleagues, saying of the health minister: “I commend him for the way that he has treated the members of the legislative council with respect and taken on board the issues that they have raised with him and brought forward, and for agreeing to the numerous amendments that we have debated today.”

Perth MP John Carey said the day after the vote: “There’s overwhelming support in the local community and this is history in the making… it will mean so much to so many people in years to come, but also personally it was an honour to support and vote for this legislation in memory of my mum. My mum was my best friend, she endured terrible human suffering and I hope that others will now have the choice to not experience that suffering.”

There’s an 18-month implementation period for a panel to be formed to develop clinical guidance, medication protocols, and training and for health practitioners.

It’s expected to be available mid-2021.

by DAVID BELL

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