Western Australia a step closer to voluntary assisted dying after inquiry report

Doug Hendrie

27/08/2018 1:44:47 PM

Western Australia continues a move towards voluntary assisted dying after an influential cross-party inquiry called for the controversial practice be legalised.

WA’s Joint Select Committee on End of Life Choices has made proposals similar to assisted dying laws in Victoria.
WA’s Joint Select Committee on End of Life Choices has made proposals similar to assisted dying laws in Victoria.

The inquiry’s report has recommended the Western Australia state parliament pass laws for
Voluntary assisted dying for people experiencing grievous and irredeemable suffering related to an advanced and progressive terminal, chronic or neurodegenerative condition that cannot be alleviated in a manner acceptable to that person.
The year-long inquiry by the Joint Select Committee on End of Life Choices (the Committee) recommends the State Health Minister be responsible for introducing laws.
The inquiry’s proposals are similar to the laws in Victoria, which became the first state to pass assisted dying legislation in November last year.
Committee Chair Labor MLA Amber-Jade Sanderson wrote in the report’s foreword about a woman named Melanie who could not find relief from her advanced motor neurone disease, and chose to starve herself to death.
‘Modern medicine has given us greater longevity; but it has also delivered longer periods of dying. People now survive a lot longer than they did, but often with debilitating symptoms,’ she wrote. ‘The prevalence of chronic disease means that many of us may face a protracted death at an advanced age.
‘Over the course of this inquiry, the Committee found that too many Western Australians are experiencing profound suffering as they die.’ 
The Committee report cited statistics that around 10% of suicides in Western Australia are by people with a terminal or debilitating illness, who die ‘lonely and often violent deaths’.
The Committee recommended there should be no compulsion for doctors to participate, acknowledging that some will not want to be involved in the process. It also found that palliative care was the single largest issue examined during the inquiry, which received around 700 public submissions and held 81 public hearings.
‘[I]t became clear that much work is needed to ensure that palliative care services are able to keep pace with growing demand and growing community expectations,’ Ms Sanderson wrote.  
Liberal MP Nick Goiran dissented, issuing a minority report claiming the risks were too great.
‘I am convinced that the risks of legalising assisted suicide (however described or defined) are too great as the consequences are final,’ he wrote in the report. ‘Indeed, I am convinced that assisted suicide is a recipe for elder abuse.
‘The safety of the people of Western Australia ought to be our highest law.’
Mr Goiran also took the opportunity to call instead for greater access to palliative care.
RACGP President Dr Bastian Seidel welcomed the passing of the Victorian laws last year, saying he was satisfied that, ‘ethical and professional issues associated with voluntary assisted dying’ had been dealt with appropriately in the bill.
Both of the state’s major parties have said their MPs would be able to vote according to conscience if the laws go to Western Australia’s Parliament.

End of Life Choices terminal illness voluntary assisted dying

Login to comment