Later this year, a Bill about voluntary assisted dying will be debated in State Parliament. For various reasons, this is an uncomfortable, emotional and complex subject for many people and I’d like to hear your thoughts on the matter. If it’s passed by parliament, the bill provides a legislative framework for patients with a terminal illness in NSW to request and receive help ending their lives with dignity, at a time and place of their choosing.

The Bill establishes a right for patients to receive help from medical personnel if they prove eligible through three criteria:
1) The patient must be at least 25 years old, and ordinarily reside in NSW;
2) The patient must be suffering from a terminal illness, which doctors believe will be fatal within 12 months;
3) The patient is experiencing severe pain, suffering or is unacceptably incapacitated.

The bill is written to require a high standard of information be provided to the patient on alternate options available to them. Before the request can be formalised, the patient’s primary medical practitioner must provide information on other options – including palliative care, counseling and psychiatric support, and options that may extend life.

If the patient wishes to continue, three medical practitioners must assess the patient – their primary doctor, a secondary specialist and a psychiatrist or psychologist. They will ensure the patient’s illness meets the criteria set out in legislation, that the patient is making the decision freely and voluntarily, has decision-making capacity and full understanding of the process.

The patient then would have a 7 day period to further consider the decision, before completing the request certificate, in the presence of their primary medical practitioner. A further 48 hour cooling off period then applies – during which the primary medical practitioner must not assist the person to end his or her life.

A patient may choose to self-administer a lethal substance, or be assisted by their medical practitioners or a nominated person to administer the lethal substance.

The Bill makes it an offence for a person to give, promise or accept a financial or other advantage (other than reasonable payment for medical services), or threaten to cause any disadvantage, to any person for assisting or refusing to assist in ending a patient’s life. The maximum penalty is 4 years’ imprisonment.

The Bill provides the following additional protections; a patient may rescind their request for assistance at any time, any person has the right to conscientiously object to being involved in providing assistance, no criminal or civil liability will be incurred by protected people who act in good faith and participate in the provision of assistance or refuse to participate in the provision of assistance and close relatives of a patient may apply to the Supreme Court for an order that the request certificate is not valid (for example, if the patient is underage).

To read the whole draft Voluntary Assisted Dying Bill 2017, follow the link:
www.legislation.nsw.gov.au/bills/fbb47772-6378-42e0-9ce8-fc5cd330699c

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