MEMBER for Lowan Emma Kealy has called for community responses to a state government bill to legalise voluntary assisted dying before she discusses the issue in parliament.
Ms Kealy will be the Coalition’s lead speaker on the bill in the Legislative Assembly ahead of a government vote before the end of the year.
“It is an emotionally charged issue, and I’m pleased the debate within our region has been respectful no matter what side people sit on,” she said.
“There has to be an acknowledgement that there are varied views about this.
“People might have very strong memories of a loved one in their last days and what that was that like, and other people have quite entrenched religious views.
“I would encourage anyone who would like to share their thoughts – or who might have a personal story to share – to get in touch with me.
“I legitimately haven't made up my mind on it yet.”
Ms Kealy said it was vital any legislation provided dignity for people affected, and adequate safeguards.
“We know elder abuse is an issue, and we have to ensure vulnerable people in our community are not taken advantage of,” she said.
The government bill outlines a request and assessment process for access to voluntary assisted dying, and safeguards including that only adults with decision-making capacity, who are suffering and are in the final weeks and months of life – with an outer limit of 12 months – can access the scheme.
Any requests must always be initiated by the person themselves, with doctors who raise the issue subject to professional misconduct investigations.
People would only be able to access voluntary assisted dying if they met strict eligibility criteria, made three clear requests, and had two independent medical assessments that determined their eligibility.
Ms Kealy said most people who had spoken to her about the issue also raised the need for better palliative care.
“We need to make sure people have the opportunity to have palliative care in their own home,” she said.
“The Coalition recently announced the largest palliative care package in Australia's history, and that’s something we've had enormous support for, from nursing staff to families.”
Victoria would be the first state to legalise voluntary assisted dying if the bill passes.
If it passes, there will be an 18-month implementation period before access to voluntary assisted dying will start.