New Draft Voluntary Assisted Dying Bill 2017 in New South Wales

Monday 22 May 2017 @ 1.25 p.m. | Legal Research

On 16 May 2017, a consultation draft was released for the Voluntary Assisted Dying Bill 2017 (NSW) (The Bill). The object of this Bill is to provide a legislative framework for the rights of terminally ill persons to request and receive assistance to end their lives voluntarily.

Background to the Bill

The Bill is the result of two years' consultation by a cross-party working group of NSW MPs comprised of Liberal MP Lee Evans, Nationals MLC Trevor Khan, Labor MLC Lynda Voltz, Greens MLC Mehreen Faruqi and independent MP Alex Greenwich.

Provisions of the Bill

Terminally ill NSW residents over the age of 25 would have the legal right to end their own lives with medical assistance under the draft legislation. According to the Bill’s framework, certain terminally ill persons may be assisted by their medical practitioners and other nominated persons to administer a substance to themselves, but the Bill also provides protection for persons providing such assistance and sets up safeguards against possible abuse of the right recognised by the Bill.

To qualify under the Bill, the patient would have to be, in "reasonable medical judgment", expected to die from their illness within 12 months and be experiencing "extreme pain, suffering or physical incapacity". Additionally, the decision must be signed off by two medical practitioners, including a specialist, and the patient assessed by an independent psychiatrist or psychologist to guarantee they are of sound mind and the decision made of their own free will.

Other safeguards in the draft legislation include a 48-hour cooling-off period, the patient's ability to rescind the decision at any time and the right for close relatives to challenge patient eligibility in the Supreme Court.

Reactions from the Public

A spokeswoman for the Catholic Archdiocese of Sydney said activists should be advocating for more resources to be placed into palliative care:

"Legalising euthanasia is not death with dignity, and introducing a law which would define killing as a form of medical treatment would have consequences for all Australians, not just those who would use such a law to end their lives."

However, Shayne Higson, as reported by the Sydney Morning Herald, spokeswoman for the right-to-die advocacy group Dying with Dignity NSW, said the draft bill contained "basically the tightest eligibility criteria in the world and the most safeguarded process for making a request for assisted dying". While supporting the bill, Ms Higson raised a further question about the fairness of the eligibility age of 25, given similar legislation internationally stipulated 18 years.

The Bill is expected to be introduced into Parliament in the August sitting session of 2017 after the consultation period on the draft has ended.

TimeBase is an independent, privately owned Australian legal publisher specialising in the online delivery of accurate, comprehensive and innovative legislation research tools including LawOne and unique Point-in-Time Products. Nothing on this website should be construed as legal advice and does not substitute for the advice of competent legal counsel.


Voluntary Assisted Dying Bill 2017 [NSW] and secondary materials as presented in TimeBase LawOne

Sydney Morning Herald Article

Related Articles: