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Voluntary assisted dying bill: NSW is the only state yet to pass voluntary euthanasia laws

New South Wales politicians will consider whether terminally ill people should be able to end their own life as a new bill on voluntary assisted dying is introduced to parliament this week.

NSW is the only state yet to legalise voluntary assisted dying after a bill in 2017 was voted down in the Upper House by one vote.

New Premier Dominic Perrottet has indicated he will support a conscience vote on the issue, as has the state’s Labor leader Chris Minns.

Sydney MP Alex Greenwich, who will introduce the bill on Thursday with 30 co-sponsors – including 12 from Labor – said while there was strong support for the proposed legislation he expects the numbers to be tight.

Sydney MP Alex Greenwich will introduce the voluntary assisted dying bill on Thursday.
Sydney MP Alex Greenwich will introduce the voluntary assisted dying bill on Thursday. (James Brickwood)

“The vote in both houses is going to be close, and it’s going to be important for me and for supporters of the reform to engage with every single member of the parliament,” he told 9News.com.au.

“I really do hope we are able to pass it through both houses this year. But, until we start the debate, I’m really unable to make a call one way or the other.”

Voluntary assisted dying has been legal in Victoria for more than two years and in Western Australia for more than two months.

Parliaments in three other states – Tasmania, South Australia and Queensland – have also passed assisted dying bills.

Mr Greenwich said NSW had been able to learn from other states and amendments had been made to the bill to make sure it had “the strongest, most robust and best possible safeguards”.

The bill has been drafted in consultation with the NSW Nurses and Midwives’ Association, the Paramedics Association (NSW), the Pharmaceutical Society of Australia, The Law Society of New South Wales, the Health Services Union, the NSW Ombudsman, and age care providers, including Uniting.

Terminally ill resorting to ‘horrific’ means

The bill’s introduction comes as euthanasia advocacy group Dying with Dignity released data this morning showing of the people who took their own life in NSW in 2019 – and were aged over 40 – one in five had a terminal illness.

“The unfortunate truth is that people with terminal illnesses in NSW are resorting to tragic and often horrific methods to end their life because their suffering has become unbearable, and they have no other options,” Dying with Dignity President Penny Hackett said.

A Roy Morgan poll commissioned by Dying with Dignity in 2017 found 87 per cent of Australians supported voluntary assisted dying.

Dying with Dignity NSW vice president Shayne Higson said she was hopeful the bill would make its way successfully through the NSW parliament this time around.

“There is a sort of a sense of inevitability to this because it has been passed in every other state, however, this is the New South Wales Parliament – anything can happen,” she said.

Sydney father-of-three Scott Riddle has been campaigning for voluntary assisted dying since 2017, the same year he was diagnosed with stage four bowel cancer.

The 39-year-old Google executive was given an 85 per cent chance of dying within two years after the cancer spread to his lymph nodes and liver.

Scott Riddle with with wife Amelia.
Scott Riddle with with wife Amelia. (Supplied)

However, after undergoing intensive treatment, he has been cancer-free for the past two-and-a-half years.

Mr Riddle said the legislation would offer peace of mind to himself and many others.

“There are so many things to worry about when you have been given a terminal diagnosis, the nature of your death shouldn’t be one of those things,” he said.

“I have been in that position of facing an imminent bad prognosis and I still have a lot of friends in a similar boat who haven’t done as well as I have in terms of progression.

“I think this legislation would give all of those people and myself, should I need it again, the peace of mind that they deserve.

“No-one wants to die, but if you get a terminal diagnosis, you are going to die – it’s just about how you die.”

Scott Riddle had only gone to the GP to register his three children Ada, six, Calla, four and Ellis, 16 months with wife Amelia, 36, when he ended up being diagnosed with cancer.
Scott Riddle had only gone to the GP to register his three children Ada, six, Calla, four and Ellis, 16 months with wife Amelia, 36, when he ended up being diagnosed with cancer. (Supplied)

Mr Riddle said it had been frustrating to watch the issue being “kicked along the road” for years in NSW.

“If I could say one thing to politicians is that this is not something that you can just delay for political expediency,” he said.

“This is a real and urgent issue and there is a real cost to delaying that decision.”

Mr Riddle said the issue was also not as controversial as politicians appeared to make it.

“If you look at any public poll there is an overwhelming public support. The only place this is getting blocked is in the politics of it all.”

Contact reporter Emily McPherson at emcpherson@nine.com.au

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