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Today the Premier, Minister for Health and the Attorney General released the Voluntary Assisted Dying Legislation.

Previously I have expressed support for the policy but withheld my final judgement until I could see the bill in full and be satisfied that it will protect the vulnerable.

I am now satisfied that the necessary safeguards are in place and that the legislation responds to questions raised by the report produced by the Ministerial Advisory Panel, led by Professor Brian Owler.

So I can confirm I will be voting in support of the legislation and providing Victorians the right to self-determination as provided by the Voluntary Assisted Dying Legislation.


UPDATE

3rd November 2017
  • Many local constituents have written to me regarding my position and how I will be voting on the Voluntary Assisted Dying Bill 2017. I include below the response letter that I am currently replying with.
  • An article by Melissa Davey of the Guardian Australia which quotes some of the things I said in Parliament on the issue, is included below the letter.
  • My full speech to the Second Reading of the Voluntary Assisted Dying Bill 2017 in the Legislative Council can be found here.

Letter to constituency regarding the Voluntary Assisted Dying Bill 2017

Dear Constituent,

Thank you for emailing me recently in reference to the proposed Voluntary Assisted Dying Legislation. I appreciate it when people take the time to share their views with me as a Member of Parliament.  This is one of the most challenging issues I have faced as a Member of Parliament, and I acknowledge that many in the community have strong and differing views on it.

The Andrews Victorian Government introduced the Voluntary Assisted Dying Bill 2017 into the Legislative Assembly on Tuesday the 17th of October and after an extensive four-day debate, the Bill passed the Assembly. This bill has now been introduced into the Legislative Council in this current sitting week (that commenced October 31). The bill is currently being heard by my colleagues and I, with debate now to extend into next week.

The legislation has been informed by an expert Ministerial Advisory Panel and it incorporates the 66 recommendations and 68 safeguards which came out of the panel’s report. If the legislation is passed there will be an 18 month period to allow health services and the community sufficient time to prepare. You can read more about the legislation here: health.vic.gov.au/about/news-and-events/news/voluntary-assisted-dying-bill

I have decided that I will be voting in support of the legislation to provide Victorians with serious terminal illness the right of self-determination when it comes to their death. This decision has not been an easy one and I have appreciated and taken into consideration the many views my constituents have shared with me on both sides of the argument. I have studied the legislation closely and I am satisfied that the necessary safeguards are in place and that the legislation responds to questions raised by the expert Ministerial Advisory Panel report. I believe in the right to allow people to determine their own future and this is paramount to my support for the legislation.  I believe that this bill will, if passed, be an historic, positive moment of progress in our state’s history and I will be proud to support it.
Yours Sincerely,

Philip Dalidakis MP

Victorian MP for Southern Metropolitan Region.
Victorian State Minister for Trade & Investment,
Innovation & the Digital Economy, Small Business.


Article in the Guardian Australia

Assisted dying debate: MP says his religion shouldn’t come before his electorate

Friday 3 November 2017 by Melissa Davey

Labor’s Philip Dalidakis supports Victorian bill because he believes in an individual’s right to make their own decision.

Labor MP Philip Dalidakis has told the Victorian parliament his religious views should not come before the beliefs of the community he represents, which he said overwhelmingly supported proposed voluntary assisted dying legislation.

As the bill entered its second day of debate in the upper house, Dalidakis said he had exchanged emails with a senior Orthodox rabbi who opposed the legislation because it was not consistent with Judaism.

Victoria’s voluntary assisted dying bill may need amendments to pass upper house

“One of the things I said in that email exchange was: ‘Why is it that my faith should somehow have a greater weighting in the decisions I make as a legislator in comparison to the rights of an individual that may not be of the same faith as myself?’,” Dalidakis told the house. “Why should I let my faith dictate to me what is in the best interest of the community over and above what might benefit the community itself?”

Dalidakis said he would vote for the proposed laws because he had listened to his community and because he believed in an individual’s right to make decisions about their life.

“If we fundamentally believe that each and every person has a right of self- determination within our society … if we believe in our democracy … then we have a fundamental belief that people must be able to make decisions for themselves, as challenging as those decisions may be,” he said.

Supporters of the government-sponsored bill believed it was likely to face an easier passage through the upper house given the number of Greens, independents and progressive Liberals in the Legislative Council. But numbers have tightened in the past fortnight and it now appears unlikely the legislation will pass without amendments.

MPs have been given a conscience vote on the issue, which was debated in the upper house until 11.30pm on Thursday night before resuming on Friday morning. An indicative vote was expected on Friday afternoon, but the final vote will not take place until parliament next sits in a fortnight. If the bill is amended, the legislation will return to the lower house.

Liberal MP Simon Ramsay spoke to the bill on Friday, describing it as his most difficult speech in seven years of parliament. He asked his party to respect him for his position, which is in support of the bill subject to amendments being passed.

Ramsay said he had found no evidence from other countries with voluntary assisted dying laws that suggested vulnerable and ill people being abused by family members had been coerced into using the laws, but he nonetheless wanted additional safeguards added.

He also called for significant increases in palliative care funding for regional Victoria, saying that it would be tragic if people in areas with limited access to pain relief turned to voluntary assisted dying because of inequalities in healthcare. Everyone should have the option of first accessing quality palliative care, he said.

But he said the fact that the legislation was not perfect would not lead to him blocking or opposing it.

“We are legislators, not clinicians,” he said. “We do not feel the pain of a terminally ill patient for whom palliative care does not provide relief.” He said stories shared by parliamentarians of witnessing pain and suffering were “nothing” compared with what doctors saw on a daily basis.

I’ve done my darndest’: advocate Rodney Syme awaits Victorian vote on assisted dying “Like doctors we must use our power as legislators to provide the best care,” he said. He had faith in the parliamentary process to incorporate any amendments and scrutinise the legislation for flaws.

Independent MP James Purcell declared his support for the bill, provided that it was amended so that the requirement that a patient be 12 months or less away from death was reduced to six months. He said his community, and especially nurses he had spoken to, overwhelmingly supported the legislation.

But the Nationals MP Luke O’Sullivan said he could not support the proposed laws, which he said would “fundamentally change the way we operate as a society”. He broke down as he said he would have missed the opportunity to tell his dying father the things he had told him in his final moments, had voluntary assisted dying been available.

“Say someone goes through this process and they’ve got this drug at home in the lockbox,” he said. “The family don’t know when the person is going to take it. It’s actually like having a bomb waiting to explode. The rest of the family and friends will wake up every day thinking; ‘Is today going to be the day that they’re going to take it [the lethal drugs]?’

“Would they take it in secrecy because they wouldn’t want to alarm the family? It’s one of those things where I think it might add stress to the family and stress to the patient.”