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Law Assignment: Impact of Public Discussion on Voluntary Assisted Dying Act 2017


Task: On 19 June 2019, the Voluntary Assisted Dying Act 2017 (Vic) came into effect. Victoria is the first state in Australia to pass voluntary assisted dying laws. The development and passing of this legislation generated widespread discussion and public debate among stakeholders with competing rights and interests, including medical practitioners, patients, pro-life campaigners and the Victorian government. Your task is to critically evaluate the impact of these public discussions and debates on the legislative process that led to the enactment of the Voluntary Assisted Dying Act 2017 (Vic). What impact, if any, did the public discourse have on this legislation?

This is a law assignment. You are required to undertake your own research in respect of the relevant Victorian legislation. You need to find appropriate sources that support your discussion of the posed question and reference them adequately. Solely relying on newspaper articles is not sufficient. You should also consider academic articles, any relevant case law, submissions to government inquiries, government reports, and Parliamentary debates (Hansard).


The Voluntary Assisted Dying Act (2017) grants the right to end their lives to an individual suffering from terminal illness, having six months to live. In 2015, May, the Legislative Council agreed upon the motion to Standing Committee for the legal and social issues to consider, inquire and report on the requirements of laws in the Victoria for allowing the citizens to take informed decisions in context to their end of life choice. In 2016, the report titled “Inquiry into End of Life Choices” was produced, where 49 recommendations were framed, which was inclusive of the provisions of legalise the assisted dying in victoria . The Voluntary Assisted Dying Bill, 2017 was passed in the parliament. In 2019, it was enacted by the Parliament of Victoria, which made victoria the first state passing the voluntary assisted dying laws . However, the journey included widespread public discussions, debates and discourse. The purpose of the paper is to examine and analyze the impacts of public debates and discussions on the legislative procedures of enactment of the legislation. The academic journals, articles, newspaper readings, and reliable online articles have been used to conduct the study.

Impact of public discussions and debates on the legislative process

In the year of 2019, the voluntary assisted dying act came into effect and Victoria is seemingly the first state to pass the act. It can be seen that the development and even the passing of the legislation generated quite the white spirit of discussion and there was certain public debate among the different types of stakeholders which took place and that debate was on the competing rights and interests of the people . After that, it can also be seen that patients pro-life campaigners and the Victorian government also took part in the debate and there were some critical observations that were passed through. It is a fact that the public debate and discussion had quite an impact on the whole act and that will be discussed in this report. The law concerns giving people who are suffering from a terminal illness and who have less than some months to live. There were certain reactions that were seen among the people and among the stakeholders as well . At first, it should be noticed that Kathy eager who was the executive director of the Australian palliative care outcomes collaborated in the whole act and also the director of the Australian health services Research Institute analyzed the statistics which were surrounding this factor internationally and he even said that the law is somehow limited. According to Kathy Eagar one of the most important reasons that are behind this law and can also be incorporated as one of the main issues is that people choose this if they do not want to lose their autonomy as well as their independence. She even believes that it is a social issue and there were several discussions and debates which were going on that the social issue is most of the reason and not the health issue. after certain research, it can be seen that Kathy eager told that the discussions and debate which took place according to the act were very careful and even extremely cautious insert and approach but there are even a lot of people who have strong feelings against this and there are strong advocates for this act and especially for the people who do not expect to live more than 12 months. It can widely be said that the people who are living with certain conditions that can be debilitating have reasons to support this act and there are certain conditions that have been impacting them for many years .

The conversation and the debate which took place had a certain impact on the act because there were certain issues that were generated and there were certain obligations that had to be looked into in a certain manner as well. After that, the Victorian president of the Australian Medical Association Mr. Baker also looked into the different aspects of passing the legislation and the act so that the significant shift which was going to be encountered in the medical practice in Victoria could have been objectified in a proper manner . The debates and the public discussions switch took the police had a certain impact on the act and can also be seen that the different decisions which came together after act two are supported by this and there were people who wanted the axis and in that privilege, they will also be granted that. Kerry Robertson seemingly was the first person who was granted this permit and it could be seen that she was diagnosed with breast cancer in the year 2010 and after certain years she decided to end her life .

The most important factor that should be looked into is that the people would have granted the permit if there were certain reasons for which they wanted to end their life but there were several discussions which told that it is not right and it is morally wrong but the act had passed in 2019. There were certain areas of confusion as well which could be seen because this is not a small decision to be made and it is widely considered that the discussion and debate which took place in the public and even among the different official people had affected the outcomes of the result . The most significant factor that ought to be investigated is that individuals would have conceded the license if there were sure explanations behind which they needed to take their life however there were a few conversations which told that it isn't right and it is ethically off-base yet the demonstration had gone in 2019. There were sure zones of disarrays also which could be seen in the light of the fact that this is certifiably not a little choice to be made and it is broadly viewed as that the conversation and discussion which occurred in general society and even among the distinctive authority individuals had influenced the results of the outcome. The public discussion and conversation had a significant effect on the general activities and that will be examined in this report. The law worries about giving individuals who are experiencing terminal sickness and who have not exactly a few months to live. There were sure responses that were seen among individuals and among the partners also . In the time of 2019, the intentional help to bite the dust demonstration happened and Victoria is apparently the main state to pass the demonstration. It tends to be seen that the turn of events and even the death of the enactment created an incredible white soul of conversation and there were sure open discussions among the various kinds of partners which occurred and that discussion was on the contending rights and interests of the individuals . After that, it can likewise be seen that patients' professional life campaigners and the Victorian government additionally participated in the discussion and there were some basic perceptions that were gone through. The public discussion and conversation had a serious effect on the general activities and that will be examined in this report.

Impact of public discourse on this legislation
The discourse of safety was significant in terms of the Victorian Legislation. The government claimed that the legislation was ‘most conservative’ and ‘safest’ in the world throughout the discourse and debate. The inclusion of the concept of ‘safe guard’ was common in the discussion. It was claimed that the legislation was inclusive of ‘68 safeguards’ in the public discourse, it came out that safeguarding has become rather competitive in Western Australia .

As a result of public discourse, and debates, various changes have been made on the legislation. It was passed after more than a hundred hours of discussions and debates on the Parliament of Victoria. In due course, the social activist, healthcare workers, community workers, think tanks raised voice for and against the legislation. Thereby, after a long course of arguments and counter arguments, significant amendments took place in the legislation. The change of specification to which the law may concern was the prominent impact of public discourse on the legislation. At first, it was considered that the voluntary assisted dying will be applicable for the patients who have expected lifetime of 12 months . After discourses, when the pros and cons of the time specification were discussed and potential exploitations can under consideration, the time limit was reduced to weeks and maximum of six months. The exception is for the people dealing with neurodegenerative condition- however, provided that no more than 12 months lifespan.

In order to make request, the person should have dwelled in Victoria for minimum of 12 months . The legislation was changed for the individual with mental illness, as the person must be referred to the psychiatrist for thorough assessment before making request. Previously, the contact person of the individual applying for voluntary death is to return the unused voluntary assisted dying substances within a month (30 days). However, after the public discourses, the timeframe for returning the unused substances and medications was reduced in 15 days . It is likely to reduce the exploitation and illegal use of the medications of for voluntary assisted dying. The parliament has strictly focused on the mistreatment of the substances used for voluntary assisted death. Therefore, the Review Board is allocated with the responsibility to communicate with the contact person for safe use and return of the unused medications. As per the changes, the coroner will be made aware of the voluntary assisted dying deaths. The death certificates for the individual who have requested for the voluntary assisted dying will note the manner of death as ‘Voluntary Assisted Dying’ .

The Voluntary Assisted Dying Act 2017 came into effect on the 19th of June 2019. As soon as the Act came into being and Victoria being the first state to have accepted the laws there was turmoil and protests both for or against it. In the course of the discussion we have seen how various public debates were held that stated and negated the claims of ending a person's life willingly if they were suffering from a terminal disease. With international statistics rising in favour of the negation of the law as it is limited and restricted certain amendments were done in the law. The main debate or point of discussion regarding this law was that if one is entitled under the Voluntary Dying Act then he or she is losing their autonomy and independence and making death which is a natural phenomena, time bound. It was an interesting turn in the course of discussion when it was seen that the negation came from family members and board members of the Medical Association rather than from people who were actually suffering from the diseases.The reason the act received so much negations, discussions and was subjected to long sessions of debate was because it was dealing with a serious and fragile issue like death. Moreover, the concern with the voluntary death was also that if people who were terminally suffering were forced to end their life or whether the medications being used for illegal practices and so on. Thus public discourse was important as it brought about amendments in the law and the day of returning of medication of the deceased was made 15 days and the person wanting to opt for death under Voluntary Act had spent some time in Victoria and had to show that their life expectancy was six months or less. These changes made the Voluntary Dying Act seem more reasonable and acceptable.

Beardsley, Christian, Kilian Brown and CharbelSandroussi, "Euthanasia And Surgeons: An Overview Of The Victorian Voluntary Assisted Dying Act 2017 And Its Relevance To Surgical Practice In Australia" (2018) 88(10) ANZ Journal of Surgery

Brennan, Frank, "The Victorian Voluntary Assisted Dying Act Comes Into Operation" (2019) 49(6) Internal Medicine Journal

Kelly Buchanan, Australia: Victorian State Parliament Passes Bill To Legalize Voluntary Euthanasia (2017)

McDougall, Rosalind and Bridget Pratt, "Too Much Safety? Safeguards And Equal Access In The Context Of Voluntary Assisted Dying Legislation" (2020) 21(1) BMC Medical Ethics Mendelson, Danuta. (2017). Voluntary Assisted Dying Legislation in Victoria: What Can We Learn from the Netherlands Experience?.Journal of law and medicine. 25. 30-45.

O'Connor, Margaret M. et al, "Documenting The Process Of Developing The Victorian Voluntary Assisted Dying Legislation" (2018) 42(6) Australian Health Review

Riddle, Christopher A., "Assisted Dying & Disability" (2017) 31(6) Bioethics The Guardian, Victoria Becomes First State To Legalise Assisted Dying As Parliament Passes Bill (2020) society/2017/nov/29/victoria-becomes-first-state-to-legalise-assisted-dying-as-parliament-passes-bill>

White, Ben and Lindy Willmott, "Evidence-Based Law-Making On Voluntary Assisted Dying" [2019] SSRN Electronic Journal

Yoong, Jaclyn et al, "Perspectives Of Cancer Treatment Providers Regarding Voluntary Assisted Dying In Victoria" (2018) 48(7) Internal Medicine Journal


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