Lopsided voluntary euthanasia vote kickstarts painstaking debate — here’s what happens next


September 04, 2019 17:44:25

Western Australia is a big step closer to legalising voluntary assisted dying, after members of the Lower House of State Parliament overwhelmingly backed the McGowan Government’s proposal.

But there is still a long way to go for the practice, also known as voluntary euthanasia, to become legal.

In fact, that vote was just the first of many that the voluntary assisted dying (VAD) bill must clear for terminally ill West Australians to be given the right to access medical help to end their life.

So, what happens from here?

Where are we at right now?

MPs in the Legislative Assembly voted 44 to 12 in favour of the Government’s bill on Tuesday night.

It was a lopsided result that had appeared certain for some time, with Labor having a big majority in the Lower House and nearly all of its MPs backing the bill.

But that does not mean WA has legalised VAD.

In fact, it is not even close to that stage. The bill has not even passed the Lower House yet.

What’s next — and how long will it take?

After that first vote, MPs in the Lower House are now examining the bill line-by-line and voting on potential amendments to the legislation.

It is a painstaking and time-consuming process, with just four clauses out of 184 examined during more than three hours of sitting on the first night.

MPs even spent nearly an hour debating whether the title of the bill should be VAD or voluntary euthanasia, with late-night sittings of Parliament planned until the issue is dealt with.

Once that process is finished, Lower House MPs will vote one last time.

The Government hopes that will happen by the end of September.

When will the final vote take place?

That may sound like a long process, but it is not even close to all of it.

Once the Legislative Assembly gives the bill the final green light, that process then starts all over again in the Upper House.

In summary, any MP gets the chance to make a speech before a first vote, the bill then gets considered line-by-line with potential amendments thrown up and then it goes to a final vote.

But the process will likely take even longer in the Legislative Council, given the numbers there are much tighter and it is still uncertain whether there are enough supporters of the legislation for it to pass.

The Government hopes there will be a final vote in the Upper House by the end of the year.

What are the key issues likely to be?

Several MPs have already said they hope to see the legislation amended, with a few concerns lingering about the Government’s bill.

Critics want to see the bill tightened, arguing that a few key differences make it less safe than the law in Victoria.

Those differences include the lack of a departmental sign-off requirement, more freedom about who could administer the lethal drugs in WA and the ability for doctors to raise VAD with patients under the proposed scheme in the west.

What exactly are MPs voting on again?

The Government’s proposal would give terminally ill West Australian adults the right to access medical help to end their life.

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It would be open to people with an incurable condition causing intolerable suffering, that is likely to cause death within six months (or 12 months for neurodegenerative conditions).

Patients would also need to be an Australian citizen or permanent resident and have lived in WA for at least 12 months.

People who meet that criteria would need to make three requests to die, and get two doctors to sign off on it, to be eligible.










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September 04, 2019 17:40:03

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