The Death with Dignity Bill was introduced on October 20 as many MPs considered the previous bill, South Australia Voluntary Euthanasia Bill 2016, didn’t have strong enough safeguards to protect misuse of the legislation.
This new bill included several more stipulations and restricted requests for voluntary euthanasia to people suffering intolerably from a terminal illness.
However, even though the bill was discussed clause by clause in the parliament’s lower house, a conscience vote resulted in a tie with 23 for and against. Speaker Michael Atkinson’s casting vote against the bill ended the debate.
MP Duncan McFetridge, who introduced the bill, told news outlets he wasn’t bitter at the final vote but “extremely disappointed for all the people that have been working so hard on this both within the parliament and also the lobbying groups out there.”
Go Gentle Australia founder and media presenter Andrew Denton also feels very bitterly disappointed, “along with much of South Australia,” he says. The pro-euthanasia group had initiated the pro-voluntary euthanasia campaign ‘Be the Bill’, and Mr Denton says there is a clear need for this legislation.
“Until there is a cure for cancer and MS, there are people dying in pain who we can’t help,” he says. Mr Denton believes there are positives coming out of South Australia; he highlights the support for voluntary euthanasia legislation is increasing with even nurses getting behind the Go Gentle campaign.
Go Gentle will now focus its activities on Victoria which is due to start discussing similar laws soon.
Although some MPs thought the issue had been rushed and discussions had gone on too late, Premier Jay Weatherill, who supported the bill, didn’t think it was an issue. “When the margin is one vote as it was, every single MP has responsibility for the outcome,” he told ABC radio.
This is the 15th attempt to legalise voluntary euthanasia in South Australia, and the bill passed a second reading milestone with a 27-19 vote, leading to the debate that continued until the early hours.
Mr Denton is convinced the debate will return to South Australia at some point.
Anyone seeking support and information about suicide prevention can contact Lifeline on 13 11 14.