Voluntary Assisted Dying Bills in NSW and Victoria Met with Controversy

Wednesday 27 September 2017 @ 11.08 a.m. | Legal Research

Following on from the release of reports and draft legislation related to assisted dying, both the NSW and Victorian Parliaments are currently in the process of considering assisted dying Bills:  the Voluntary Assisted Dying Bill 2017 (NSW) ('the NSW Bill') and the Voluntary Assisted Dying Bill 2017 (Vic) ('the Victorian Bill').

Voluntary Assisted Dying Bill 2017 (Vic) (‘the Victorian Bill’)

The Victorian Bill is informed by a report from the Ministerial Advisory Panel on Voluntary Assisted Dying which was released on 25 January 2017. The specific provisions of the Victorian Bill provide:

  • The minimum age to access the procedure is 18 years;
  • The individual must be a resident of Victoria and an Australian citizen or permanent resident;
  • The patient must have decision making capacity, must have been diagnosed with an incurable disease that will be terminal within 12 months and is causing suffering that cannot be relieved in a manner that is deemed tolerable;
  • Individuals must be assessed by two doctors and one with knowledge of the illness;
  • Individuals with mental illness or dementia are rendered ineligible;
  • Doctors are required to refer the individual to a psychiatrist if they suspect mental illness;
  • Doctors who conscientiously object may refused to provide information on assisted dying and services related to assisted dying.

Voluntary Assisted Dying Bill 2017 (NSW) 

The NSW Bill was initially a draft bill, which was produced by a cross-party working group. The specific provisions of the NSW Bill are:

  • The minimum age to access the procedure is 25 years;
  • The individual must be a resident of New South Wales with decision making capacity;
  • The individual must be suffering from a terminal illness likely to result in death within 12 months and they must be experiencing severe pain, suffering or physical incapacity that is unacceptable to the patient;
  • Individuals with mental illness or dementia are rendered ineligible;
  • The individual must be assessed by two doctors and one of them must be a specialist;
  • The individual is required to see an independent psychiatrist or psychologist for approval.

Responses to the Bills

The Bills have been controversial, with both vocal support and opposition in the media. In NSW, Trevor Khan MP, member with carriage, said in his Second Reading speech:

"The fear campaign being mounted by many opponents of the bill is not just unfounded, it is also misleading. I urge members to take a rational and evidence-based approach in forming their views on this bill. I urge members to read the bill, not emails containing falsehoods. I also urge members to think about the profound positive impact this bill, if passed, will have on our community. Terminally ill people at the final stages of their life, such as Annie Gabrielides, will be able to die on their own terms, at a time and place of their choosing, and with a chance to farewell their loved ones. They will be able to take control of the end of their lives. We hope that we can ease the suffering of terminally ill people."

Victorian Health Minister Jill Hennessey said in her speech in the Victorian Parliament:

“The Voluntary Assisted Dying Bill 2017 balances a compassionate outcome for these people at the end of their lives who are suffering, and providing community protection through the establishment of robust safeguards and comprehensive oversight.”

However, NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian has also indicated her opposition to the NSW Bill, saying:

“Traditionally I'm someone who's quite progressive on social issues, but that's a difficult one for me. I don't think I can support it.”

NSW Deputy Leader of the Opposition and Shadow Minister for Health, Walt Secord also voiced his opposition, saying that it would be difficult to have sufficient safeguards to prevent abuses of the laws.

NSW Opposition Leader, Luke Foley tweeted:

“Personally, I will vote against. I oppose the state sanctioning the taking of human life. Opposed [sic] to capital punishment & euthanasia.”

Future Directions

There has also been an issue raised about possible Commonwealth protections with regards to Medicare Benefits. At the moment the Medicare Benefits schedule explicitly excludes euthanasia and the drugs proposed to be used are also currently listed without government subsidy. Victorian Health Minister Jill Hennessy noted that there ‘would be a requirement to talk to the Commonwealth about these things’.

If either of the Bills are to be passed, an application to have euthanasia services funded by the government would have to be made to the Medical Services Advisory Committee.

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 second reading speech as published on Timebase LawOne.

Voluntary Assisted Dying Bill 2017 (Vic), and second reading speech as published on Timebase LawOne.

Sean Nicholls, ‘Luke Foley Assisted Dying Comments Branded ‘Offensive’,’ (Sydney Morning Herald) 26 September 2017.

Sarah Hawke, ‘Nationals MPs Trevor Khan makes emotional plea on assisted dying bill,’ (ABC News) 21 September 2017.

Perry Duffin, ‘Premier won't back NSW assisted dying bill,’ (news.com.au) 4 September 2017.

Gay Alcorn and Melissa Davey, ‘Assisted dying laws to be debated in New South Wales and Victoria,’ (The Guardian Australia) 13 September 2017.

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