Terminally ill Victorians would be able to use telehealth to talk to their doctor about voluntary euthanasia under a plan before state parliament to improve access to the scheme.
Laws currently prevent doctors and their patients from discussing euthanasia due to federal rules that prohibit people to “incite or counsel” another person to commit suicide through online communication. The laws were designed to tackle cyberbullying.
Advocates of Victoria’s euthanasia laws say voluntary assisted dying is not a form of suicide.
Justice Party MP Stuart Grimley has introduced a private member’s bill to make it clear doctors who talk to their patients about voluntary euthanasia will not be prosecuted.
”We are seeking to tighten up that loophole,” Mr Grimley said.
He also called on the federal laws to be amended.
“Voluntary euthanasia and telehealth are both part of our future and here to stay,” Mr Grimley said.
Up until December, 224 Victorians had died taking the lethal medications prescribed through the scheme.
A total of 465 applications have been made, 36 per cent of them are from country Victoria.
Doctors and advocates say this is in part due to the restrictions on telehealth.
Only doctors that are comfortable and trained in the euthanasia scheme can participate, meaning patients might need to find the right doctor to suit their needs, which is harder in country areas.
The first meeting between a patient and their doctor regarding voluntary assisted dying still must remain an in-person consultation.
Applicants must be Victorian residents, aged over 18 and be assessed by two doctors to have a terminal illness with intolerable pain that will likely cause death within six months or 12 months if the illness is a neurodegenerative condition like motor neurone disease.
The Justice Party is also seeking to change the rules around residency.
“If you have lived in Australia for more than three years and for all intents and purposes are an Australian but don’t hold a permanent residency visa, you shouldn’t be stopped from accessing VAD,” Mr Grimley said.
St Kilda GP Dr Nick Carr, a vocal advocate of the laws, backs the need to change residency requirements after his patient, named Julian, took his life in horrendous circumstances.
Dr Carr said Julian was his first VAD patient, had terminal pancreatic cancer “and was hugely relieved” to know he had the VAD option.
“But, despite living in Australia for 40 years, paying taxes, being on the electoral roll and now a pensioner, he had never taken Australian citizenship. He was deemed ineligible for VAD,” Dr Carr said.
“He was distraught, and in desperation took his own life; exactly the kind of outcome the VAD law was intended to prevent.”
The state’s euthanasia laws are being reviewed.
Attorney-General Jaclyn Symes, a “big supporter” of voluntary assisted dying laws, said the government had not yet looked at Mr Grimley’s proposal.
“This is a very carefully crafted legislation designed to be one of the safest models in the world,” Ms Symes said.
“I wouldn’t want to suggest there is any plan to expand it dramatically, but making improvements is the reason that there is a review underway, in case there are issues that need to be addressed to ensure that the system is working as it was intended.”
Source: Thanks msn.com