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Voluntary Assisted Dying in the ACT

In the majority of VAD cases, the person willingly takes the life-ending medication in the form of a drink, at a time of their choosing and surrounded by loved ones - GoGentle Australia The ACT government is asking for feedback from People with Disability about new laws that will allow Voluntary Assisted Dying (VAD). This is the medical procedure that will allow eligible people to decide how and when they will die, before the legislation is passed in latter half of 2023. Late last year ACT Human Rights Minister Tara Cheyne pointed out the passing of the Restoring Territory Rights Bill meant that Australian territories were able to introduce Voluntary Assisted Dying legislation. She claimed the passing of this Bill was "a victory for democratic rights and human rights, and the result of a campaign more than a decade in the making". Cheyne has now begun leading a process of consultation that will, she hopes, shape the law so it "reflects the views and values of the Canberra community. We are in a position of being able to draw on experiences from the laws which exist in other states, several of which are operational", the Minister said.

ACT Senators David Pocock and Katie Gallagher embrace after the passage of Territory Rights legislation passes federal parliament. Photo courtesy Dying with Dignity NSW THE BIG CHANGE There is a simple reason the processes surrounding Voluntary Assisted Dying have become an issue in the ACT. Last December the Federal Government passed legislation allowing both Australian territories, the ACT and Northern Territory, to make their own laws about this issue. The NT had originally been the first jurisdiction in the world, back in 1995, to pass laws permitting medically supervised dying. Similar legislation had failed to pass in the ACT when a bill had been introduced to the Legislative Assembly two years earlier. What happened next, however, ostensibly had nothing to to do with allowing people the right to choose how they died. The Liberal backbencher Kevin Andrews quickly introduced a bill to Federal Parliament which overturned the territories' right to make laws on this issue. He thought voluntary death was wrong because of his religious beliefs: this, however, was not a valid reason to stop it happening. Instead the NT laws were overturned simply because it was not a state. For the next two decades this legislation, introduced during John Howard's term of office, held. Neither Labor (under Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard) or the coalition (under Tony Abbott, Malcolm Turnbull, and Scott Morrison) wanted to risk raising the contentious issue. During this period, however, a change swept across the nation as one-by-one, the states slowly and carefully passed their own laws permitting Voluntary Assisted Dying. Laws already allow this procedure in Victoria, Western Australia and Tasmania. Similar legislation will come into effect in Queensland and South Australia next January. New South Wales will become the final state with laws that will become operational in November, 2023. When Labor was returned to office federally in 2022, it had committed to overturning the earlier Andrews' ban. This will allow the territories to again have the power to make their own laws on this issue, and that's why the ACT government is calling for input on the legislation. CONTINUING DEBATE It's important that debate is continuing over this legislation, because everyone wants to ensure the best laws possible are introduced, particularly as the issue is so morally contentious. What the ACT government wants to do, however, is move the debate on from one over the morality of the procedure itself. Government is emphasising that this foundational question has already been decided: legislation will be passed that permits people to chose to die. What it is attempting to enact is the best way of achieving this result.

Types of procedure for Voluntary Assisted Dying - credit Insightsias There are many different safeguards that can be embedded within the legislation to ensure it is the very best possible. This is important because there are still many different questions that need to be sorted out before Voluntary Assisted Dying laws come into effect. These include questions over who should be eligible for the procedure. Should it be restricted to adults over 18, or is this just an arbitrary age that makes no medical sense? Proponents for change argue, for example, that a child with a terminal illness at the age of 16 is just as competent to decide on the way they choose to end their life as someone who happens to be slightly older. The other big issue is how the end of life drugs will be administered. What safeguards, for example, should be put in place to protect those who have chosen VAD to ensure they have not been pressured into this choice? This is the role of the ACT's government desire to hear submissions on this legislation - particularly from the disability community. More information and details of how to provide feedback can be found at: MORE INFORMATION: It is important to realise that you are never alone. If the issue of voluntary assisted dying raises issues for you or your family, you can contact Lifeline on 13 11 14 or Griefline on 1300 845 745. ACT Government information about the consultation can be found at: An easy English discussion paper about VAD is available at:

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