A terminally ill patient would have to ask for help to die three times under proposed reforms. Photo: Supplied
Is euthanasia going to be legalised in Victoria?
It’s too soon to tell. The report tabled at Victorian parliament on Thursday by a parliamentary committee recommends passing laws that make it legal for a terminally ill patient at the end of their life to ask a doctor to help them die. But the state government has six months to respond to the report. It would be put to a conscience vote – and even if the reforms were voted in, there would be an 18-month waiting period before it came into law. So any possible reforms are realistically more than two years away.
What forms of euthanasia would be allowed under the proposed reforms?
The report recommends that euthanasia only be made legal for terminally ill patients over the age of 18, enduring pain and suffering in the last weeks or months of their natural life.
Who could ask a doctor for assistance?
Only the terminally ill patient could request assistance to die, and only if they still have full mental capacity to give informed consent. A legally appointed guardian, spouse or member of family could not ask for assistance on behalf of a patient.
Could I write into my end-of-life plan that I would want to be die if I became mentally incapacitated through terminal illness and dementia?
No, the laws would not allow people to request euthanasia at a time in the future, or if they lose their capacity to give informed consent.
Could a patient in severe mental pain through depression or mental illness get help to die?
No, only the physical pain of the terminally ill would be considered.
Could patients travel to Victoria from other states or countries to end their lives?
No, physician-assisted death would only be made available to Victorian residents.
How would the process work?
A terminally ill patient would have to ask for help to die three times. First they would make an initial verbal request to their doctor, then they would need to fill in a form, then they would need to affirm their wish to die verbally again. Approval would need to be signed off by the consulting physician and a second doctor who has no direct contact or connection to the patient or the primary doctor.
What if a doctor refused to help a patient die?
The reforms would not include a “right to die” – no doctor would be compelled to help with requests to die.
Who will oversee the approvals to make sure everything is above board?
Doctors would need to report all requests to die and assisted deaths through to an Assisted Dying Review Board, whose work would be overseen by a new entity, End of Life Care Victoria.
What are the reforms’ chances of success?
History would suggest chances are slim. There have been 51 attempts to introduce some form of assisted-dying laws across Australian states and territories since 1993. It was only successfully introduced once, in the Northern Territory in 1995, and then repealed by the Commonwealth government in 1997.
However, the report notes the overwhelming public support for reforms. There are assisted-dying laws in several other countries. Euthanasia reforms were supposed to be introduced in Canada earlier this week, but the laws remain in limbo.