Victoria becomes first state to legalise euthanasia
Canberra: Voluntary assisted dying will be legal in Victoria from 2019, after a landmark Bill successfully passed through state Parliament.
The government-led, amended Bill passed the Legislative Assembly after more than 100 hours of debate across both houses, including several overnight sittings.
It will make the state the first Australian jurisdiction to legalise assisted dying since the Northern Territory's short-lived Rights of the Terminally Ill Act was overturned by federal parliament in 1997.
Since then the Victorian legislation marks the first time in the world that a parliament has gone through an extensive process to introduce voluntary assisted dying. Other countries have introduced laws through referendum or a court process.
Upper house MP Fiona Patten,one of the key proponents of the legislation, told Guardian Australia she was overwhelmed that it had passed. While the upper house passed the legislation one week ago 22 votes to 18 after a marathon debate, a number of amendments were made which had to pass the lower house.
"It's very clear the vast majority of Victorians are happy the parliament has done this work," she said.
"I don't think I ever believed that having the privilege of being a member of parliament would lead to initiating and passing laws like this. It's pretty amazing there have been moments throughout this debate where I wasn't sure that I believed it would pass."
It will be the only legal scheme in Australia. The premier, Daniel Andrews, told reporters "I'm proud on Wednesday that we have put compassion right at the centre of our parliamentary and our political process".
"That is politics at its best and it's Victoria doing what it does best – leading our nation," he said.
Significant amendments were required for the Bill to pass, including introducing a requirement that for a person who used the scheme, they would have "assisted dying" recorded as the manner of death on their death certificate rather than their illness.
The time frame for eligible patients to access the scheme was also changed from those with 12 months to six months to live.
Other amendments included requiring a person to have lived in Victoria for at least 12 months before being able to make a request to access the scheme, and death certificates for people who choose voluntary assisted dying will have that and not their illness recorded as the cause of death.
Neurosurgeon Prof Brian Owler, a former Australian Medical Association president who chaired the independent ministerial advisory panel on voluntary assisted dying, said they were amendments he "could live with".
"I'm obviously very pleased on Wednesday that it's through and I think a lot of people will be pleased that it has passed, but there are also mixed feelings," he told Guardian Australia.
"I think this must also be a day where we reflect on all of those people that have given so much to see this Bill pass, particularly those with terminal illnesses who have advocated, some of them who are no longer with us, so others don't have to suffer.
"And we must also thank their friends and family who have carried on that advocacy as well. So, there will be mixed feelings for those people, but obviously there is relief and happiness that it is through." It ends a parliamentary process that took two and a half years. The legislation will now go through an 18-month implementation period before it comes into effect in June 2019.