Last updated December 11, 2019 at 12:26 pm
WA becomes the second state to allow those suffering from terminal illnesses to die with dignity.
Why This Matters: Voluntary assisted dying is a “fundamental question of human rights”.
Western Australia has passed laws to legalise voluntary assisted dying, becoming just the second state in Australia to allow people facing unnecessary suffering to end their own life. The scheme is expected to be implemented in mid-2021.
On Tuesday evening, after more than five hours of debate, the WA Parliament officially passed the law after accepting a raft of amendments.
Voluntary assisted dying is a “fundamental question of human rights,” said Western Australian Premier Mark McGowan.
“It means that all of those people who are worried about their own futures, worried about their parents’ futures, will have the comfort of knowing that if they’re dying and in agony, they can exercise their own choice.”
How the bill will work
Western Australia follows Victoria, which became the first state in Australia to legalise voluntary assisted dying in June this year. The bill is closely modelled on Victoria’s, but with some key differences.
In WA, a person will be allowed to end their life if they are terminally ill with a condition that is causing “intolerable” suffering. The condition must be likely to cause death within six months, or 12 months for a neurodegenerative condition.
The patient will need to make two verbal requests and one written request. Then, the requests will need to be signed off by two doctors who are independent of each other.
However, unlike Victoria, the WA law gives patients the option of self-administration of the medication, or administration by a medical practitioner. This includes nurses with at least two years of experience.
Western Australian doctors and medical practitioners will also be able to raise the subject of voluntary assisted dying with patients. This is a key difference to Victoria, where health practitioners aren’t allowed to bring up the subject with patients.
In some cases, including 90-year old Western Australian woman Laura Henkel, Australians with terminal illnesses have needed to travel to countries such as Switzerland in order to end their suffering.
“In tandem with the increased funding and support for palliative care that has flowed from this debate, we believe the passing of VAD law will lead to better and more compassionate end of life choices for all West Australians,” says VAD lobby group Go Gentle.
Patients will be able to access VAD in 2021, after an 18 month period to allow health services time to prepare.