Voluntary assisted dying bill passes lower house

Member for Lowan Emma Kealy.
Member for Lowan Emma Kealy.

MEMBER for Ripon Louise Staley and Member for Lowan Emma Kealy have voted in favour of Victoria’s Voluntary Assisted Dying Bill, which has passed the state’s lower house of parliament.

The bill – which outlines a request and assessment process for access to voluntary assisted dying, and safeguards – passed 47 votes to 37 on Friday morning.

​Ms Staley said she believed a majority of Victorians supported the principle of voluntary assisted dying.

“The legislation before the house met all of the recommendations of the all-party committee Inquiry into End of Life Choices,” she said.

“I had said that if that happened, I would support the bill.”

Ms Staley said she believed the parliamentary discussion about the bill was largely respectful.

“It was particularly so during the committee stage, which went for all of Thursday and overnight, and that is when amendments are moved and questions are asked,” she said.

“A few people on both sides of debate had to field those questions, and they were unfailing polite towards each other.

“I'm thinking mainly of Robert Clarke –  the member for Box Hill – and the Health Minister Jill Hennessy.”

Ms Kealy was the Coalition’s lead speaker on the bill.

She had not previously outlined a position on the proposed laws, and had sought feedback from people within her electorate before making a decision.

She said a turning point was receiving a letter from former Horsham teacher Brandi Galpin, whose father Neville died from motor neurone disease.

Ms Kealy read the letter in parliament this week.

“Neville died a very painful death, and it was not the death he wanted,” she said.

“This is something he wanted a choice about.

“To know that he could have accessed voluntary assisted dying if we had legislation in place – and to hear his story – really put a personality behind it, and that was compelling in making my decision.”

Ms Kealy said she believed having a framework for voluntary assisted dying was safer than not having one.

“I acknowledge and accept there is assisted dying occurring in our communities and hospitals now,” she said.

“There is elder abuse and coercion, and we have no regulation over it or accountability, and there is no review of clinical decisions.

“There is no evidence around the process, or evidence of someone saying they want to access assisted dying.

“You've got far greater risk of coercion now than if you have a framework in place.”

Ms Kealy said many people from her electorate provided feedback about the bill.

“I had very strong and passionate constituents speak to me representing both sides of the debate,’ she said.

“Given this, I could never keep everyone in the electorate happy with the way I voted.

“I voted for it because of the reasons I’ve outlined, and because there were more people in Lowan who contacted me asking for me to vote in favour.”

The bill will be presented to parliament’s upper house in two weeks.