by Ann David
On Tuesday 10 December Western Australia became the second state in Australia to legalise voluntary assisted dying. With their Lower House ratifying the amendments already agreed by their Upper House, this will give more than a third of Australians access to a humane death. The Voluntary Assisted Dying Act 2019 (WA) has been passed but will take a further 18 months to come into effect.
This new law has similarities and a few differences to the one that has just been agreed by the New Zealand parliament – The End of Life Choice Act 2019. Like us, a doctor in WA can prescribe and administer the medication if this is what the patient wishes. Under the only previous Australian law in Victoria, self-administration (the person taking the medication themselves) is the default option.
Comparisons with New Zealand
The main difference between NZ and WA is that in Australia the doctor is permitted to openly discuss the end of life option with a dying person in addition to any other possible medical procedures. In NZ, the patient must initiate the conversation with the doctor.
However, there is one fundamental similarity between these three laws – medically assisted dying is only for the dying.
To counteract the fear-mongering that we will continue to hear until the Referendum is successful, please pass on this vital message: that the End of Life Choice Act safeguards the vulnerable, protects medics and gives the terminally-ill a defence against the terrors of an agonising death.
In anticipation of deliberate misinformation, the Government has put out neutral, accurate, easy-read information of its own: www.referendum.org.nz