By Jacqui Miller
After decades of campaigning, 7 attempts and 180 hours of debate in parliament, Voluntary Assisted Dying has been legalised in WA.
What happens now that it’s been approved?
It passed through the upper house last week, then on Tuesday the amendments that were proposed in the upper house moved to the lower house and it was really just a formality to ‘ok’ it all. The 18-month implementation phase now kicks in. There’s a fair bit to work through this particular bill before you can actually implement it. All fifty-five amendments also passed. Contrary to reports that many people said it’s a safe bill, it warrants a mention that there were fifty-five amendments that needed to be added to make this bill safer.
Speaking of those fifty-five, what are some of the changes?
It’s quite different from the Victorian bill; a lot of it is around the administration. Unfortunately, one of the amendments that didn’t pass, but that is also worth mentioning, is in WA you can self-administer. The unfortunate thing about one of those amendments to is, whilst it’s different to the Victorian Bill in that it gives people the option to do so and not just particularly through a physician, you don’t actually need supervision when you’re self-administering the substance. That was a bit of a worrying thing that a lot of people have said is not ideal; if people are self-administering a particular substance they would want someone there to supervise the process.
Other amendments were to make it safe around psychiatric assessments, making sure there’s no possibility of collusion between doctors, because that has often happened in other jurisdictions. Also, there’s the fact that we need to work out language barriers. There’s stuff around interpreters that have been added into this bill to make sure people aren’t being coerced into making this decision. There are quite a lot of amendments but those are probably the main things that people wanted to get right early on.
So who’s going to have access to this? Can anyone apply for it or are there specific guidelines?
You have to be 18 years and older and you have to be terminally ill with a condition that is causing intolerable suffering. For a lot of people, the notion of intolerable suffering is hard to define but that’s what government lays out in the bill. There must be a likelihood, which is also impossible to predict, that you will pass away within 6 to 12 months. You must be an Aussie citizen and also a WA resident for at least a year. They’re the core things that you need. Also, flowing on from that, you need to put verbal requests, you need to make written requests. It is a bit of a process, I guess that’s why the government needs 18 months to work all this out.
Now that it has been passed, who’s going to be in charge of the development of a regulatory process to make sure it’s safe and secure management of the lethal medication?
It’s a tricky one and a lot of the debate centred around this exact issue. Whilst there is a regulatory board and a CEO that oversees the operation, the irony of it is, nothing really system-wise has been put in place. People say there will be a board that oversees it. Exactly who this board will consist of, we don’t know. Again, this is part of the implementation phase and they are hoping to work it out during this time. Yes, there are checks and balances in place but again, a real loss for palliative care in WA. We still don’t have a commitment on that. It’s going to be a tricky one; they don’t actually know the exact process yet. With anything regulatory, with all those boards and all those safeguards, all those things will need to be worked out in the next 18 months.