The Voluntary Assisted Dying Bill 2019 has cleared its final hurdle in the Legislative Assembly, with members accepting all amendments made in the Upper House. This makes Western Australia the second State in the nation, after Victoria, to legalise voluntary assisted dying for the terminally ill.
It took five hours for the Legislative Assembly to work its way through all 55 upper house amendments but all were passed unopposed. The bill passed on Tuesday 10 December 2019, just after 6pm, bringing to an end a long and emotionally challenging parliamentary debate that ran for more than 180 hours in total.
The amendments codify good medical practice or make explicit something that was previously implicit in the Bill. Proposed amendments that would have made the regime unworkable, or that severely restricted access by dying Western Australians, were defeated. There will now be an 18-month implementation period before the WA law comes into effect.
Health Minister Roger Cook, who oversaw the bill’s introduction and was congratulated by MPs on both sides for his handling of the process, choked back tears as he welcomed the passing of the legislation.
There will now be an 18 month implementation period but from mid 2021 terminally ill adults living in Western Australia who are experiencing intolerable suffering and likely to have less than six months to live – or one year if they have a neurodegenerative condition – will be able to take a drug to end their lives if approved by two medical practitioners.
Differences between this new WA law and the older Victorian law
One of the important differences between Western Australia’s law and Victoria’s (which was passed two years ago) is that doctors and nurses can raise the option of voluntary assisted dying with patients during a medical consultation. This ensures people with terminal illnesses are aware of all their options, including treatments, palliative care and assisted dying.