Top Barrister Calls Out Victorian MPs on Jettisoning Safeguards

Picture1.pngSince the conception of the Victorian Voluntary Assisted Dying Bill, politicians have reassured us that the legislation would contain ‘safeguards’ designed to protect vulnerable Australians from premature termination. However, according to Peter Willis SC, the present copy of the legislation bears no resemblance to the bill initially marketed to Australians.

In a thought provoking analysis, Willis dissects and decimates the Assisted Dying Bill, pointing out that it has jettisoned many of the guaranteed safety features.

“In our opinion, the bill departs significantly from the council committee’s report,” said Mr Willis.

First and foremost, Willis addresses the scheme’s entry requirement for a life expectancy of 12 months, an item which initially stipulated that only terminally ill patients who were “at the end of life” could access lethal substances. 

The analysis also questions the premise that the bill is designed for patients ­experiencing “unbearable suffering” yet allows them to obtain and hold the lethal drugs for up to a year.

A concerning change, since it would give people access to means of termination, even if they were not in critical condition.

Willis also reports that the penalties incurred for terminating a patient’s life without their full and unbiased consent fall short.

Andrews government ministers have emphasised the scheme’s penalties, including life imprisonment for anyone who administers the lethal drug outside a permit. Any person, including a doctor, family member or friend, who administered the drug to a patient who had a permit to do it themselves would face life behind bars…

But Mr Willis said more needed to be included in the bill to cover legal concepts of “undue influence” or “unconscionability” and pressure, which is different to coercion. Other safeguards and doctor checks along the way were needed to ensure patients were not subjected to coercion, he said, to avoid a “tick-box” approach.

Other MPs, such as Luke O’Sullivan, have voiced their support of Peter Willis:

“There are simply too many questions with not enough answers and I don’t trust the Andrews Labor government to fill the gaps on these unanswered questions,” he said.

Despite the fact that a handful of MPs ostensibly support the Voluntary Assisted Dying Bill, many politicians are now on the fence about giving their support. Without the silver lining of ‘safeguards’, many are starting to see the bill for what it truly is: legalised killing.