Voluntary Assisted Dying Bill passes NSW Lower House

The Voluntary Assisted Dying Bill has passed the NSW Lower House, 53 to 36 votes. Photo: Dying With Dignity NSW/Facebook.

By TILEAH DOBSON

Terminally ill people in NSW are a significant step closer to having the right to end their own lives, after the Voluntary Assisted Dying Bill passed the NSW Lower House today, on its last parliamentary sitting day for 2021.

The bill managed to pass through the Lower House by 52 to 32 votes. The result sparked applause and hugs throughout the chamber as house members voted with their conscience on the historic reform.

The result follows weeks of debate, with more than 160 amendments to the bill considered. While many amendments were shut down by votes from MPs, 42 were accepted.

NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet and NSW Opposition Leader Chris Minns were two of the members who opposed the bill.

The premier, despite having a terminally ill grandmother, said ending lives voluntarily was not the solution.

“The answer to suffering is not to offer death but care, comfort, and compassion,” Perrottet said.

The Opposition Leader acknowledged that his controversial stance on the bill was against many members of his own party.

“I accept my view is in the minority of the NSW Labor Party,” Minns said.

“I’m not convinced any legislation can prevent an individual from choosing to die in response to pressure, coercion or duress caused by others.”

MP Alex Greenwich, who introduced the bill, is pleased with the result after weeks of campaigning. Photo: Alex Greenwich/Facebook.

Independent Member for Sydney, Alex Greenwich, who introduced the bill and spearheaded the campaign, was pleased with the result.

“All amendments that passed were from supporters of the bill,” Greenwich said.

“Once the parliament started the debate, everyone realised it was something we should resolve this year.”

With the legislation passing the Lower House, the next step is for it to be sent to the Upper House for debate next year. If the bill receives majority support, NSW will be in line with other states in legalising voluntary euthanasia.

The bill would allow terminally ill patients who will die within six months, or neurodegenerative patients whose unbearable pain makes them suffer and will die within twelve months, to access to voluntary assisted dying.

Dying with Dignity NSW thanked MPs for their support, expressing their happiness at the outcome.

“Such a relief. The Voluntary Assisted Dying Bill has cleared an important hurdle in the Lower House with a solid majority of 52-32 votes,” the organisation said on Twitter.

Alex Greenwich (right) has expressed gratitude not only to MPs who supported the bill, but advocacy groups such as Dying With Dignity NSW and Go Gentle Australia. Photo: Alex Greenwich/Facebook.

NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard was among the MPs who supported the bill. His personal account of helping his mother receive palliative care influenced his vote.

“What it does do is give choice to those who are approaching the end of their life, to those who might suffer [what] none of us would want family members or friends or anyone to suffer, to enable that person to control their own passing,” Hazzard said.

The bill states patients who wish to go through with it must have two doctors assess their applications, and anyone attempting to induce a patient to apply will face criminal charges.

Tileah Dobson is the news editor of the Sydney Sentinel.