Andrew Denton to lobby PM on vote for assisted dying bill
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Andrew Denton to lobby PM on vote for assisted dying bill

Television host Andrew Denton is preparing to lobby Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull to secure a lower house vote to pave the way for assisted dying to be legalised across Australia.

With a Senate vote on a private member's bill that would allow the ACT and Northern Territory to make their own euthanasia laws expected to go down to the wire on Wednesday night, Mr Turnbull has come under increasing pressure to stop the legislation reaching the lower house.

If the bill introduced by Liberal Democrat senator David Leyonhjelm passes in the Senate, Denton and his co-director of advocacy group Go Gentle Australia Brian Owler will write to Mr Turnbull demanding he allow it to be debated in the lower house.

Brian Owler

Brian Owler

Photo: Janie Barrett

Professor Owler, a former president of the Australian Medical Association, said it would be "disappointing" if Mr Turnbull succumbed to pressure from his conservative colleagues, given the widespread community support for euthanasia law reform.

"You would think that, if something of this significance has been passed by the Senate, it's reasonable to debate it in the lower house at some point in the not-too-distant future," he said.

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"If the Senate has taken the trouble to debate the bill and it is passed, I think it's only fair and reasonable that it should be considered by the lower house."

Denton, who is overseas on holidays, has previously said that watching his father, Kit Denton, die painfully from heart failure at 67 was "the most profoundly shocking experience of my life".

Professor Owler said support for the legalisation of assisted suicide consistently polled at higher than 80 per cent, outstripping the level of community support for same-sex marriage.

"This is one of those issues where, unfortunately, a number of parliaments around the country seem to be out of step with community expectations," he said.

He said he was confident, after contributing to the laws passed in Victoria last year, that safeguards could adequately protect vulnerable people from misuse of assisted suicide.

During an impassioned Senate debate on Wednesday, politicians from both sides of politics rose to share divergent views, with many in support of the bill emphasising the rights of Australians who live in the territories to make their own laws.

Labor senator Pat Dodson, opposing the bill, argued that "paving the way for euthanasia and assisted suicide" would leave Indigenous Australians "even more vulnerable, when our focus should be on working collectively to create laws that help prolong life and restore their right to enjoy a healthy life".

Dana is a federal politics reporter, covering health and industrial relations. Previously, she was a reporter for The Australian.