WHILE it took more than 100 hours of debate across both houses of Parliament, including two all-nighters, Member for Northern Victoria Jaclyn Symes said the voluntary assisted dying legislation was the best outcome she has ever been involved with as a politician.
After the legislation was passed with changes through the Upper House on November 22, the bill had to be re-approved by the Lower House — and now patients will have the right to request lethal drugs to end their lives from mid-2019.
When the legislation passed the Upper House by just four votes in November, Ms Symes said she was one of many who cried at the result.
‘‘One of the reasons I’m in Parliament is to get good outcomes for people and this is the best outcome I have been part of,’’ she said.
‘‘I’ve never cried when a bill has been passed before. I knew that I was part of something that is not about me sitting up for 30 hours, but about delivering for those that have a terminal illness and their families.’’
Ms Symes, who described the legislation as historic, said it had been a long process and she was pleased it had become law.
‘‘It was long and arduous, but ultimately respectful and we implemented the will of the public,’’ she said.
‘‘The process that was adopted in the development of this legislation — which was a private members’ bill to a parliamentary committee with lots of input from experts and the public — was very well placed to have the best chance of passing through Parliament. And once it went to Parliament it gave MPs the chance to look into it and ask their own questions.’’
MPs took that opportunity and put forward amendments, which were debated and voted on.
Those amendments included halving the time frame for patients to access the scheme from 12 months to live to six months and provisions for people living with a neurological condition to be able to access the scheme earlier.
Under the terms of the amended bill there will be a 10-day ‘‘cooling-off’’ period between a patient requesting a lethal drug and it being prescribed. There will be a three-step process involving at least two medical professionals before a lethal drug can be requested.
The patient must be above 18 and have been a Victorian citizen for more than 12 months, and they must administer the drug themselves, if they can. If they are not in a position to administer the drug themselves a doctor can be authorised to do so.
All cases will be reviewed by a board that will protect the vulnerable and the bill includes 68 safeguards to protect people from abuse or coercion.