Caring before death

AN Australian-first move to legalise voluntary assisted dying has been described as a "dangerous precedent".

Member for Murray Plains, Peter Walsh has instead called for more investment for palliative care.

Mr Walsh, who is also Nationals leader in Victoria, is one of the few country politicians to declare his opposition to the Voluntary Assisted Dying Bill which was tabled in the Victorian Parliament on Wednesday.

Many metropolitan politicians, particularly from Labor, have already expressed support for the proposal to allow terminally ill people to use a lethal dose to end their own lives.

Most country politicians are either undecided or have not declared their preference.

Mr Walsh firmly believes that Victoria should not adopt this legislation. "I am opposed to it," he said.

"I think we are changing hundreds of years of medical precedent where the primacy and quality of life has always been the focus of the medical system, and now what is being proposed is medically-assisted suicide."

The Bill is based on recommendations by an expert panel chaired by former Australian Medical Association president, Brian Owler and includes the 68 safeguards the panel recommended.

The Victorian Nationals leader said that although he hasn't seen the details of the Bill, it could set a dangerous precedent when the government should instead be investing more into palliative care.

"The palliative care nurses we have do a fantastic job of helping people, but there are not enough of them and not enough resources," he said.

"If there are more resources I think there would be a better outcome."

Mr Walsh also said that he had heard from a number of people on both sides of the debate, including those with terminal illnesses.

"I think, almost without exception, they all said they may not use it but they'd like the option to be available as the illness gets worse," he said.

But Mr Walsh said he was concerned that people did not understand the process of assisted dying proposed by the Victorian Government.

"When you explain to people the restrictions that will be on this legislation and the way that most people will go about taking their own life, most people will be concerned and horrified," he said.

According to the Government, the safeguards include conditions stating that only those with decision making capacity, who are over 18 years of age, and who have a life-expectancy of 12 months can apply, and the process must be initiated by the person who is ill.

A conscience vote is expected to take place on the Bill by the end of the year.

The successful passage of the legislation would mean that Victoria would become the first State in Australia to legalise assisted dying.

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