State Member for Northern Victoria, and former Benalla student, Jaclyn Symes delivered a passionate speech on assisted dying in Victoria’s upper house last week before seeing the legislation pass its latest reading.
Victoria’s terminally ill are increasingly likely to be able to make their own end of life decisions after the assisted dying legislation was passed by two votes.
The bill passed 22-18 after two days of of emotional debate with MPs given a conscience vote on the matter, however, there is still some way to go before it is passed into law.
The bill will now enter the committee stage where each clause will be scrutinised and debated, a process which may take a number of months.
Any changes to the legislation would then need to pass back through the lower house before it could become law.
Ms Symes thanked constituents who had shared a number of harrowing stories with her before saying that she hopes Parliament can live up to their expectations.
‘‘For a small number of people, the arrival of death is heralded by a medical diagnosis of a terminal illness that, despite the best of treatments available... is beyond cure,’’ Ms Symes said.
‘‘I have listened to the stories of people with motor neurone disease, a cruel and insidious disease that takes apart one by one the faculties and abilities of our human selves and leaves behind an outward shell that was once an active, vibrant and loved wife or husband, daughter or son, or brother or sister.
‘‘I have heard, too, the heartbreak of so many terminal cancer experiences, often after years of successful and hard-fought battles against the disease.
‘‘And I have heard of the sharing of the moment in time when a doctor finally utters the words, ‘there is nothing more that we can do’. This has been described to me as surreal and devastating.
‘‘My role as an MP is about helping people... (and) when there is not a solution within the system, we need to examine if that system should be changed.
‘‘The bill before us today begs the question, can we make changes, can we do better... I believe we can and we must.’’
It is hardly surprising that Ms Symes is backing the legislation given her role on the ministerial committee that was charged with drafting it.
However, with many MPs still undecided on the matter it is the speeches made in both houses of the Victorian Parliament that may sway those who are still unsure.
In October, State Member for Euroa and Deputy leader of the Nationals Steph Ryan also gave an impassioned speech on the subject.
She said she would not support the legislation in its current form.
‘‘I want those people who feel they are left with no option but to take their own life to have a choice about how they die,’’ Ms Ryan said.
‘‘But in order for me to support the legislation the government needs to address the gaps that I have outlined.’’
Those gaps include a lack of information about the drug that will be used to end life, possible flaws in the safeguards process and what Ms Ryan describes as the government’s failure to address palliative care.
With the legislation entering the committee stage it is likely that all those points and more will be scrutinised.
However, based on the weight of political and public opinion it looks like it will be a matter of when, not if, this legislation is passed into law.