In a major victory for democracy, the NSW Legislative Assembly passed the Voluntary Assisted Dying Bill 2021 on November 25 following decades of public debate and community protest.
The bill, which was introduced by Independent Sydney MP Alex Greenwich, was passed with 52 MPs in favour versus 32 against after days of impassioned speeches from both sides, and despite a slew of eleventh-hour hostile amendments that were ultimately voted down.
The bill, including 167 surviving amendments, will now be considered by upper house MPs before it goes to the Legislative Council.
Greenwich is continuing to negotiate with Liberal, Labor and Independent MPs on many of these amendments.
The bill has more co-sponsors than any other bill in NSW parliamentary history. If it passes the upper house, NSW will join the rest of Australia in terms of legislating for voluntary assisted dying.
Following the vote, Dying with Dignity NSW (DWD NSW) president Penny Hackett said: “This historic result sends a clear and unambiguous message to the Legislative Council that the people of New South Wales want this law passed to give dying people in this state the same rights as other Australians”
NSW DWD vice-president Shayne Higson said it was a huge personal relief to see the legislation progressing.
Higson said: “At this time, nine years ago, my beautiful mum, Jan, was in the last hours of her life after enduring unbearable suffering at the end stage of brain cancer.
“I promised myself, back in November 2012, that I would do everything I could to help change the law so that people in mum’s situation aren’t forced to endure the terrible end stage of their terminal illness.”
Higson told Green Left last month that she and many other advocacy groups, such as Go Gentle Australia, had been fighting for decades to make VAD legal.
Greens MLC Cate Faehrmann, who co-sponsored the bill, unsuccessfully introduced a similar bill back in 2013.
The upper house debate is expected to be scheduled for early 2022