A new law that would allow terminally ill people the choice to take up voluntary assisted dying has been tabled in NSW Parliament, with debate expected to begin next week and run into the November sitting period.
Independent Sydney MP Alex Greenwich - who, along with Lake Macquarie MP Greg Piper, has been instrumental in the process so far - gave the reading of the Voluntary Assisted Dying Bill 2021 in the Lower House on Thursday.
The bill has been co-sponsored by 28 members, including all Hunter Labor MPs - the most in NSW Parliament's history.
Mr Greenwich said safeguards and a robust statutory process were built into the bill.
He outlined the eligibility requirements and application process, which includes that a patient must be at least 18 years old; have an illness, disease or medical condition likely to claim their life within six months (12 months for neurodegenerative diseases); and be repeatedly told throughout the process that they are under no obligation to follow through.
The patient must also be suffering in a way that "cannot be tolerably relieved", Mr Greenwich said.
There will be protections for healthcare workers, who will be allowed to consciously object. Doctors who approve applications must either be a specialist or a GP with a minimum of a decade's experience and be trained in detecting signs of influence or duress.
A Voluntary Assisted Dying Board will also be established, if the bill passes through Parliament.
New offences will be created - among those, a maximum life jail term for anyone convicted of administering a lethal substance outside the terms of the law as well as those who induce people to participate in voluntary assisted dying.
"The bill will create a safe framework for people who are in the final stages of a terminal illness, and who are experiencing cruel suffering that cannot be relieved by treatment or palliative care, to be provided with the choice to die peacefully, with dignity and surrounded by loved ones," Mr Greenwich said.
The Newcastle Herald earlier this week told the story of Hunter woman Leonie Leach, who suffered through horrific symptoms of terminal pancreatic cancer in the final months of her life in 2019.
Her daughter Amanda said she believed her mother would have gone down the path of voluntary assisted dying if it was available.
Labor Wallsend MP Sonia Hornery said she supported the bill because she wanted people with terminal illnesses to have the right to choose death without suffering.
"Terminally ill people in every other Australian state now have the option to die with dignity, so why should people in NSW be denied that right?" Ms Hornery said on Thursday.
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