Victoria’s historic euthanasia legislation now looks set to pass Parliament, after the state government agreed to significant changes to secure crucial crossbench support.
The amendments include halving the window of time for terminally ill Victorians to access assisted dying.
Under the current bill, terminally ill adults in severe pain and with only a year to live could apply to access lethal drugs, but that timeframe has been cut to six months under the change.
But it remains 12 months for sufferers of neurodegenerative conditions such as motor neurone disease and multiple sclerosis.
Boost for palliative care
Funding for palliative care in regional and rural Victoria will also get a boost.
The government announced a $62 million funding package for better end-of-life choices, including $19 million for palliative care.
The money will be allocated over a five-year period and there will be a review of palliative care funding.
The amendments also include restricting the scheme to people who have lived in Victoria for 12 months and will require a death to be recorded as assisted dying, as well as the underlying disease.
The amendments and funding shouldsecure enough support for the bill to pass the Upper House.
Vote 1 Local Jobs MP James Purcell said after discussions with the Government over the weekend, he would support the bill.
Liberal MP Simon Ramsay supports the idea of euthanasia but has been seeking extra cash for rural services as well as a reduction on the time frame for eligibility.
Mr Ramsay also wants a different set of rules for people with degenerative conditions such as motor neurone disease.
Entering Parliament on Tuesday morning, and before any amendments had been announced, Mr Ramsay said he needed a commitment from Labor to increase regional funding if he was to support the bill.
“I haven’t put a dollar on it, but I have seen what is allocated already in the budget in this coming year and the forward years and I expect considerably more than that,” Mr Ramsay said.
The Coalition has promised to boost palliative care by $140 million if it wins next year’s state election.
Just one vote short
With Mr Purcell’s support the euthanasia bill has 20 locked in votes, one shy of the 21 needed to pass the Upper House.
Mr Ramsay and his Liberal colleague Bruce Atkinson both voted for the bill to enter the committee stage, which began on Tuesday afternoon.
Mr Atkinson said he would be watching the amendments.
Health Minister Jill Hennessy said she had been working to secure support for the bill after it passage through the Lower House last month.
“I’ve been working very hard to do our best to see what could be done in order to address those concerns without undermining the integrity of the bill,” she said.
The changes to eligibility come despite Premier Daniel Andrews ruling out amendments last month.
Since then, supporters of the plan have acknowledged how close the numbers are in the Upper House.
A final vote on the bill could happen as early as Thursday.
If amendments are passed, the Lower House would be required to ratify the bill.