Legislation that would give terminally ill people in NSW the right to end their own lives on their terms will be formally introduced to the state’s parliament on Thursday.
Independent Sydney MP Alex Greenwich, who is leading the push for reform, on Tuesday presented parliament with a petition signed by 100,000 supporters of the voluntary assisted dying laws he is proposing.
His bill is backed by a record 28 MPs, including members of the government, crossbench and the Labor opposition - the highest number of co-sponsors to a bill in the history of any Australian parliament.
If passed, the laws would see NSW follow every other state in the country in legalising voluntary euthanasia for people with incurable medical conditions who have only a short time to live.
“I am keen to work with the Premier, the opposition and all members to make sure we can achieve this reform this year,” Greenwich told reporters on Tuesday.
“So we know people with a terminal illness in NSW who know their end of life is going to be cruel are provided with the same options as citizens of every other state.”
Greenwich said he was hoping for a “respectful” parliamentary debate, which will kick off next week, among MPs who hold firm views on either side of the emotive issue.
“I want to work with them to see if we can address any of their concerns,” Greenwich said of those who were expected to vote against the bill.
It will be an early test for NSW’s new premier Dominic Perrottet, who has said he would oppose the legislation but would allow government MPs a conscience vote.
Opposition Leader Chris Minns has also ruled out supporting the bill, though more than a dozen of his Labor colleagues have co-sponsored it.
“I’ve made my view clear I don’t support voluntary assisted dying,” Minns told reporters earlier on Tuesday.
“I don’t think you can codify the risks for a vulnerable person who’s in the latter stage of their life, who may feel they’re a burden on their family or on their loved ones.
“That’s a real concern and I don’t think it can be dealt with as per the writing of the bill.
“But, I want to make this point – I think I am in the minority of the NSW opposition when it comes to that and I fully respect their views in relation to it.”
Greenwich said his bill would include the “strongest safeguards” for coercion or people feeling any kind of pressure, including creating new criminal offences for anyone found to have put someone vulnerable in that position.
“NSW will be the last state to legislate voluntary assisted dying. That means we have been able to learn from the legislation in every other jurisdiction,” he said.
Under the bill, access will be limited to people with terminal illnesses who will die within six months – or 12 months if they have a neurodegenerative condition – whose suffering cannot be relieved.
Two doctors, who Mr Greenwich said would be trained to recognise if someone was under pressure or duress, would have to sign off on each request for access to the lethal medication.
No hospitals or doctors would be forced to participate.
If the legislation is passed, it will not come into effect for another 18 months to ensure the right policy settings are in place.
The NSW parliament previously debated an assisted dying bill in 2017, which was defeated by one vote in the upper house.Do you have an idea for a story?
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