Voluntary dying law off to NSW upper house

Health Minister Brad Hazzard was among the MPs to speak in favour of the NSW assisted dying bill.
Health Minister Brad Hazzard was among the MPs to speak in favour of the NSW assisted dying bill.

A bill to legalise voluntary assisted dying in NSW has been passed by the state's lower house in a convincing vote following a marathon conscience debate.

The bill now goes to the upper house for an inquiry and debate in the new year.

"We have sent a clear and unambiguous message to the (Legislative Council) to now get on and deal with this reform early next year," said Sydney MP Alex Greenwich, who's spearheaded the bill.

"Our assembly that represents the people of NSW wants the upper house to make sure there are no further delays and that they progress with this in an efficient and respectful way just as our house has done."

MPs sat until close to midnight on Thursday to consider 167 amendments.

By lunchtime on Friday, a largely unchanged bill passed with 52 votes to 32.

Mr Greenwich said all "hostile" amendments had been voted down, with only small changes made during the amendment debate.

They included strengthening conscientious objection provisions and creating additional guidelines for doctors on the referral process.

If the historic reform secures majority support in the upper house next year, it will make NSW the final state in Australia to embrace voluntary assisted dying.

The upper house is holding an inquiry to the bill throughout December and will report back before the first sitting day of 2022.

Dying with Dignity president Penny Hackett asked the inquiry to take close note particularly of testimony from people who were dying or who had watched loves one die.

Andrew Denton, the founder of Go Gentle, said on Friday that the rest of Australia would be watching the upper house debate "very, very closely".

"The people of NSW will have every reason to ask, if this law doesn't pass, and doesn't pass as it should, why did you do that? We'll be watching."

The proposed legislation restricts euthanasia to terminally ill people who would die in no more than 12 months.

Two doctors would have to assess applicants, and the bill makes a criminal offence of attempting to induce a person to apply for voluntary assisted dying.

Australian Associated Press