State MPs vote down assisted dying bill in NSW Parliament

A controversial bill that would create a law which allows euthanasia under certain circumstances has been voted down in NSW Parliament.

A marathon debate in the upper house saw the bill defeated 20 votes to 19 last Thursday.

Guyra-based Liberal MLC Scot MacDonald was on the fence leading up to the debate, before announcing he could not support the bill during his speech on Thursday.

“I simply have too many doubts about safeguards, protection from coercion, implications for health workers, a pivot away from preserving life, the consequence of errors and a possible undermining of palliative care,” Mr MacDonald said.

“… The elderly and the seriously ill often feel themselves to be a burden.

“I feel voluntary assisted dying could be intentionally or unintentionally misused where there are vulnerable people.

“I am concerned about scope. This bill has limitations and restrictions as to who can access assistance to die, but I very much feel once this genie is out of the bottle expansion will be inevitable.”

The bill included safeguards such as the decision must be signed off by two medical practitioners, including a specialist, and the patient assessed by an independent psychiatrist or psychologist.

It proposed that to be eligible a patient must be at least 25 years old and suffering from a terminal illness from which they are expected to die within 12 months.

The bill also contained a 48-hour cooling-off period, the right for a patient to rescind the decision at any time and for close relatives to challenge patient eligibility in the Supreme Court.

Mr MacDonald said before coming to a decision, he engaged with palliative care practitioners who presented two compelling messages.

“First, we are getting much better at end-of-life care and, secondly, treatment of serious illness is improving all the time,” he said. 

“That is not to diminish or downplay painful terminal illnesses, but these health workers are seeing longer survival times and more successful pain management.

“I feel our focus should be greater investment in palliative care and support particularly to those regions, such as mine, that do not have much access to these services.”

Locally, the region had been divided over the bill.

Northern Tablelands MP Adam Marshall launched a survey earlier this year which saw more than 1,000 responses in just two weeks.

“Sixty-three per cent of people support the introduction of the draft bill, with 28.9 per cent in opposition,” Mr Marshall said at the time.

“This is a difficult piece of legislation – with impassioned arguments made by supporters and opponents of voluntary assisted dying.”

Around the same time, Fairfax Media launched a poll which first appeared on The Leader and gathered responses from around 1300 people.

More than 64 per cent of people were against euthanasia for terminally ill patients.

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