Voluntary assisted dying the hot topic for West Australian families

Voluntary assisted dying the hot topic for West Australian families

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A debate was held at Kelmscott Hall on Monday, August 26 to discuss the Voluntary Assisted Dying 2019 Bill.

More than 100 people packed out Kelmscott Hall this week to hear the opinions of two prominent West Australian medical professionals about the controversial Voluntary Assisted Dying Bill 2019. 

The Bill, which is currently being discussed in Parliament, would provide safe and compassionate access to voluntary assisted dying for eligible West Australians with a terminal illness who would suffer even with the best palliative care. 

The public gallery listened to two 20-minute debates on Monday night by general obstetrician and gynaecologist Dr Michael Gannon, and Dr Scott Blackwell, a palliative care physician and a member of the State Government’s medical expert panel on voluntary assisted dying. 

Both doctors discussed their informed views on the issue, which has 88 per cent of WA’s support based on the 102 safeguards provided in the Bill. 

If the Bill were to be passed, to be eligible to access voluntary assisted dying a person must be 18 years or older and an Australian citizen or permanent resident and ordinarily resident in WA for the past 12 months. 

They must be diagnosed with a disease, illness or medical condition that was advanced and progressive and would cause death, the condition will, on the balance of the probabilities, cause death within six months or 12 months in the case of neurodegenerative illness, must have decision-making capacity at every stage of the process and is experiencing suffering that cannot be relieved in a manner that the patient considers tolerable. 

On Monday night, Dr Gannon said he could not support the Bill as there was some language that needed to be tidied up. 

“The language is a bit too loose,” he said.

“The current law is unsafe and I reckon as West Australians we deserve better.

“I think this is the easiest approach for a failing palliative care system.” 

In rebuttal Dr Blackwell said the bill is very safe and the words were debated long and hard by the expert panel. 

“This legislation reflects what the people of WA have told us,” he said. 

“They want the option there so that when their family is left behind they will not suffer as a result of their suffering. 

“Nothing is perfect but this is as safe and as sound as the Victorian legislation whether the Australian Medical Association think it is or not.” 

For more information or to have a look at a copy of the Bill visit the Department of Health website.