The ACT Government yesterday introduced the Voluntary Assisted Dying Bill 2023 in the Legislative Assembly.
Restrictions preventing the ACT and Northern Territory from passing laws to allow for voluntary assisted dying were removed last December when the Federal Parliament passed the Restoring Territory Rights Act 2022.
Chief Minister, Andrew Barr said the ACT Government has since undertaken an extensive process of community and stakeholder consultation on an appropriate voluntary assisted dying model.
“It’s been a long journey for the ACT to be in the position to introduce voluntary assisted dying legislation,” said Mr Barr.
“It’s the result of years of advocacy for equal rights – and I thank every Canberran who has supported the campaign for equality with the states.”
The evidence-based model provides that an individual will have access to voluntary assisted dying if they are 18 years and older; have a condition that is advanced, progressive and expected to cause death; are intolerably suffering; have lived in the ACT for 12 months or be provided an exemption by demonstrating they have a substantial connection to the ACT; be acting voluntarily; and have decision-making capacity throughout the process.
All of these eligibility requirements must be met. As with other jurisdictions, an individual must undergo a multi-step request and assessment process, with the assessment conducted by two independent and suitably qualified, trained and authorised health professionals, the Government said in a statement.
The Bill does not mandate that anyone take part in voluntary assisted dying. However, the Bill establishes minimum standards that must be followed by individuals and organisations that conscientiously object to or cannot assist with voluntary assisted dying, including not hindering access.
“We know that even with the best end-of-life care, some Canberrans with an advanced condition, illness or disease experience can experience intolerable suffering near the end of their lives,” said ACT Minister for Human Rights, Tara Cheyne.
“To promote the autonomy and dignity of these people, the ACT Government has considered how to approach and regulate access to voluntary assisted dying.
“This is an historic day for Canberrans. With so many in the community supporting voluntary assisted dying, I am proud to have delivered this reform within a year of our Territory rights being restored.
“Ultimately, this is a Bill about people, and choice, autonomy and dignity at the end of their lives.”
The legislation will be subject to an Assembly committee inquiry before it is debated. To allow sufficient time to establish and operationalise this new health service with the necessary systems, safeguards and processes, the scheme will commence 18 months after the legislation passes.
The Bill commits to a review of the scheme being undertaken once voluntary assisted dying has been in operation in the ACT for three years.
Further information on voluntary assisted dying in the ACT is at YourSay.act.gov.au/VAD.