New South Wales passes Voluntary Assisted Dying Bill – the 6th and final state!
May 19, 2022 It took many years of lobbying for this additional compassionate end of life choice, however the NSW Legislative Council, after considering around 100 adverse amendments in a long debate, and rejecting them all, passed the final stage of the VAD Bill 2021 by a substantial majority of 23 votes to 15. The Bill had passed the Lower House 52 votes to 32 on the last sitting day of 2021. The final version of the VAD Bill was then adopted in the Lower House on 19.5.2022.
A previous NSW Bill was lost by just one vote in 2017, about the same time Victoria passed their VAD Act.
This is an emotional time, as I think back to my late friend and mentor, Rev Trevor Bensch, who co-founded our group with me early in 2009. Trevor was a hospital chaplain, and some of what he had witnessed led him to support the VAD choice. We met with The Advertiser reporter Jill Pengelley in the vestry of North Adelaide Baptist Church, and this article was our first piece of publicity!
We have updated our terminology since to reflect that used in all Australian VAD legislation.
Above: Rev Trevor Bensch with our first Patron, Kym Bonython AC, DFC, AFC
I must thank every person who has written and spoken to MPs, those who have shared their stories of loved ones who endured needless suffering at the end of their lives, every Voluntary Assisted Dying Group in each state and territory, Andrew Denton and the team at Go Gentle Australia, Rev Dr Craig de Vos B.V.Sc., Dip.P.S., B.Th.(Hons.), Ph.D., and so many others who have assisted me in our part in reaching this goal. Huge thanks go also to Alex Greenwich MP, all the co-sponsors of the VAD Bill, Adam Searle MLC for his work in the Legislative Council, and every MP who spoke and voted to pass the Bill.
Of course the final step in VAD legislation throughout Australia is to have the Right of the Territories to enact VAD legislation restored. This was taken away in what is known as the ‘Andrews Bill’ by the Howard Government, after our Northern Territory under the guidance of Marshall Perron became the first jurisdiction in the world to pass a ‘Rights of the Terminally Ill Act 1995’ to give end of life choice.
We do need to be aware that it will be18 months before VAD actually becomes available in NSW, to allow for setting up all the facets of the Bill re access.
To those who have opposed this legislation – we do remind you that the key word is voluntary and there is no compulsion for you to use the law in any way. We all support more funding for palliative care, and better access to palliative care in remote and country areas, but also know that the Voluntary Assisted Dying choice is needed in addition to the best possible PC.
History has been made and the wishes of a huge majority of the community have been respected..
Ian Wood, Spokesperson.