Voluntary Euthanasia Bill Defeated in South Australia

Thursday 17 November 2016 @ 12.14 p.m. | Legal Research

A Bill to legalise euthanasia in South Australia has been defeated after a marathon parliamentary session that continued until about 4 am this morning, 17 November 2016.  The Death with Dignity Bill (also known as the Assisted Dying Bill) 2016 was introduced in October this year (2016) by Liberal MP Duncan McFetridge.  The Bill is the 15th attempt to legalise voluntary euthanasia in the state.

ABC News reports:

“The bill initially passed a second reading stage with a vote of 27 to 19, leading to a debate that continued up until about 4:00am. But the Death with Dignity bill from Liberal MP Duncan McFetridge was examined clause by clause and a conscience vote was tied at 23 votes for and against. Speaker Michael Atkinson then used his casting vote to decide against the bill and end the debate.”

The Speaker, Mr Atkinson, told ABC News that he was disappointed with the way the bill was handled, saying it should not have been considered by a “group of sleepless and irritable MPs for hours and hours until 4:00 am”:

“Duncan McFetridge had a very bad six hours in which he was unable to answer most of the questions about this bill…If someone else had been put in charge of the bill, if it had been considered during daylight hours, clause by clause in a patient and sophisticated way, over several days, it may have been carried.  It's a textbook example of bad legislative practice, to be considering this between 10pm and 4am.”

However, Mr McFetridge told ABC News that he did not believe the timing of the debate affected its defeat, and said he believed the issue would come up again, particularly if Victoria passed its own voluntary euthanasia bill.

The Bill’s Provisions

The Bill’s provisions were relatively limited, after criticism of a previous bill (the Voluntary Euthanasia Bill 2016) which would have allowed for voluntary euthanasia in a much broader range of scenarios.

The Bill would have required a person requesting euthanasia to be a competent adult, suffering a terminal medical condition causing intolerable suffering, where there was no available medical treatment or palliative care options to relieve the suffering, and the person’s death was inevitable.  The person could not have had an impaired decision making capacity, and must have lived in the state for more than 12 months prior to the making of the request.

The Bill specifically prevented euthanasia requests for age, disability or mental health conditions.

A person requesting euthanasia would need to have been examined and assessed by two medical practitioners and a psychiatrist, and the completed form would need two witnesses.

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