The push to legalise voluntary assisted dying in NSW has marked a “significant milestone” after a majority of NSW lower house MPs voted in favour of the reform.
The vote – which succeeded 53 to 36 – followed three days of emotional and passionate conscience debate in the Legislative Assembly.
Advocates for the reform are not celebrating yet, however, as the lower house must still consider 167 suggested amendments to the bill.
“We have a way to go yet,” said Dying With Dignity president Penny Hackett on Thursday evening.
Ms Hackett urged MPs to wrap up the mammoth debate and send the bill to the upper house before the year’s end.
“We really hope that through the next stages our members of parliament show their respect to the community… We hope that this law will pass because the benefits to people that are suffering now are just so profound,” she said.
Parliament will sit past 10pm on Thursday night in an attempt to get through the amendments, before parliament rises for the year on Friday.
Both Ms Hackett and the independent Sydney MP who’s spearheaded the bill, Alex Greenwich, have expressed concerns over some of the amendments.
Mr Greenwich said in parliament on Thursday that he was working collaboratively with many MPs who’ve put forward suggestions.
But, he said, “there are some amendments that were literally lodged at midnight and others that are coming thick and fast”.
“I don’t believe that last-minute amendments on complex matters is how we make good laws,” he said.
The 167 proposals include labelling VAD medication “poison” and changing the name of the bill to something more inflammatory.
Ms Hackett estimated that two thirds of the proposals were designed to delay and obstruct the debate.
“We have watched in full the debates in every other state, and we have a very clear idea of the ways in which amendments are used to delay and to make the bill unworkable,” she said.
“We’ve seen it before.”
Meanwhile, an upper house inquiry will consider the reform with hearings throughout December, before reporting back ahead of the first sitting day in 2022.
The bill would make NSW the last state in Australia to embrace voluntary assisted dying.
Its detractors in the lower house included Premier Dominic Perrottet and Opposition Leader Chris Minns.
Health Minister Brad Hazzard was among the MPs to speak in favour of the bill on Friday.
He hadn’t supported euthanasia for the first 29 years of his three-decade career in parliament, but said this bill was different.
Mr Hazzard became emotional as he recalled holding his mother’s hand and asking her to squeeze it if she wanted palliative care, knowing that death might come more quickly if she did.
His mother squeezed his hand. She died the next day.
Mr Hazzard said that voluntary assisted dying did not “remove the importance of the value of palliative care”.
“What it does do is give choice to those who are approaching the end of their life, to those who might suffer (what) none of us would want family members or friends or anyone to suffer, to enable that person to control their own passing.”
He also said he couldn’t withhold a right from NSW residents that Australians in all other states had.
Attorney-General Mark Speakman and Police Minister David Elliott spoke in opposition to the bill on Thursday.
The proposed legislation restricts euthanasia to terminally ill people who would die in no more than 12 months.
Two doctors will have to assess applicants, and the bill makes a criminal offence of attempting to induce a person to apply for voluntary assisted dying.