Today is a momentous day as eligible Victorians now have the choice to die with dignity with Voluntary Assisted Dying (VAD) laws coming into effect.
Reason Leader and Member for Northern Metropolitan, Fiona Patten was central in achieving this historic reform, and on the day she was first elected into Victoria’s Legislative Council in 2014 she promised the first legislative change she would pursue would be assisted dying. By May 2015, her motion was referred to a Parliamentary Committee into End of Life Choices and then the Voluntary Assisted Dying Act passed in parliament in November 2017. Today it becomes law after an 18-month implementation phase.
It was also a repeat of a promise Ms Patten had made days before she was elected, to a man named Peter Short, a leading pro-end of life choices campaigner. Mr Short, who suffered oesophageal cancer, died, aged 57, a month after the Victorian Election.
“Today is a historic day for Victorians and for the Reason Party,” Ms Patten said.
“This will ease the suffering. This will allow people a choice at the end of their lives. A choice that will give many of us comfort.
“This couldn’t have been achieved without the tireless work by local assisted dying groups, doctors, nurses, the Coroners Court, the 100s of people who told their story, and the support of the Government and my other parliamentary colleagues.”
Ms Patten was part of the committee inquiry into End of Life Choices. It heard wrenching stories from families who had watched too much suffering and from those left numb by suicide.
“We received over 1,000 submissions and we spoke to a vast array of people – rabbis and priests, mothers and fathers, sons and daughters, doctors, nurses, volunteers and carers, and police, coroners, lawyers and even politicians,” she said.
“People shared their personal pain with us, but also many of their happy moments. We heard about good deaths and bad ones. And what we found was that the community wanted this to happen.”
Ms Patten said the voluntary assisted dying legislation was about having another tool in the toolbox and believed it would be used very rarely – but its existence will comfort many.
“Overseas experience tells us that it will improve conversations about end of life choices and it will improve access to palliative care,” she said.
“I only hope that all health and palliative care providers honour their patients and clients wishes.”