An independent Sydney MP has shared horror stories of people with terminal illness in his push to legalise voluntary assisted dying.
Harrowing stories of suffering have been read in the NSW parliament as a bill to legalise voluntary assisted dying was introduced.
Independent Sydney MP Alex Greenwich said the bill, if passed, would help those whose pain could not be alleviated by palliative care.
“It is my hope that a bill will increase demand for palliative care, as more people discuss the end of life options with doctors,” Mr Greenwich said on Thursday.
“But even the best quality of care cannot alleviate end of life suffering for all people.”
Every other state in the country has legalised voluntary assisted dying.
Mr Greenwich said he’d been told “heartbreaking” stories by families of people who died “slow and agonising deaths”.
“Stories of people who died choking on their bodily fluids, who slowly suffocated to death … who were unable to swallow, whose bodies were covered in painful open sores,” he said.
In the version of the bill presented on Thursday, to be eligible a patient would have to be over 18 years of age, and an Australian citizen, permanent resident, or residing in Australia for at least three years.
The patient must be diagnosed with at least one disease that is likely to cause death within six month, or in the case of a neurodegenerative disease, within a year.
“The disease, illness or medical condition must cause suffering to the patient in a way that cannot be totally relieved,” Mr Greenwich said.
The patient must choose to have the procedure themselves, without outside pressure.
The request can be made to an experienced doctor, who may choose to accept or to conscientiously object.
Mr Greenwich also said the bill would create a “comprehensive set of offences, to protect against any misuse” of voluntary assisted dying.
The new crimes would include life in prison for anyone administering or inducing another to take the deadly substance outside the provisions of the bill.
Inducing someone else to apply for voluntary assisted dying would carry a maximum penalty of seven years in prison, and failing to return what’s left over of the substance after a procedure would mean a year in prison.
The bill would also make it a crime to advertise certain poisons as voluntary assisted dying substances.
Earlier in the week Mr Greenwich presented parliament with a petition signed by 100,000 supporters of the bill.
The proposal is backed by a record 28 MPs, including members of the government, crossbench and the Labor opposition – the highest number of co-sponsors to a bill in the history of any Australian parliament.
If passed, the laws would see NSW follow every other state in the country in legalising voluntary euthanasia for people with incurable medical conditions who have only a short time to live.