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Assisted dying bill considered

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July 28, 2017

People suffering from a terminal illness could be able to access lethal medication within 10 days of asking under a proposed Victorian assisted dying bill released to the public on Friday.

Access will be limited to people over the age of 18 who are suffering from a terminal illness and are expected to die within 12 months.

Anyone making the request will need to be of sound mind, ruling people with dementia or a mental illnesses out from accessing end-of-life medication.

Only permanent Victorian residents would be eligible and doctors would be required to assess whether or not their patients met these requirements.

The parliamentary committee inquiry into end-of-life choices has made 66 recommendations to help safeguard against potential misuse under any assisted dying laws

If eligible, a person will need to make three requests over a minimum period of 10 days.

The person must first make a verbal request, followed by a formal written request and then a final verbal request before receiving the medication.

The person will have to make the request themselves and should not be pressured or prompted by their doctor or any other third party.

The committee said that in the vast majority of cases a doctor should prescribe the medication to their patient, who would then administer it themselves without any further assistance.

However, the committee also believes that people should not be prohibited from accessing assisted dying if they are of sound mind but physically unable to take the lethal medication themselves.

In this case, a doctor will be able to assist their patient in administering the medication but only in accordance with a strict protocol.

A primary doctor and independent secondary doctor will be required to specify and document why the person was unable to administer the medication themselves and conclude why their assistance was necessary.

The report said that no doctor, health service or health practitioner could be forced to participate in assisted dying.

It also said that the intention was to provide an option that could limit suffering at the end of life, not a way to end life for those who are otherwise not dying.

In compiling the report, the parliamentary committee took hundreds of submissions from individuals, doctors and palliative care organisations across regional and metropolitan Victoria.

The report also recommended that the Victorian Government increase access in rural and regional communities to community-based palliative care services.

The committee suggested the government do this by increasing funding to frontline palliative care services in rural and regional Victoria and by offering incentives to attract expertise to these areas.

A new government entity should also be created in order to manage and offer guidance on end of life health services in Victoria.

Parliamentarians are expected to vote on the assisted dying bill in parliament later this year.

It is understood that all members of parliament will be allowed a conscience vote on the issue so that no member will be tied to vote along party lines.

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