The ACT's voluntary assisted dying legislation has been commended by proponents but slammed as the "worst bill" put forward by any jurisdiction from its opponents.
Human Rights Minister Tara Cheyne dedicated the bill to people who had died and wanted to access voluntary assisted dying but were unable to.
Katarina Pavkovic's father was one of those people. He died eight years ago. Ms Pavkovic said her father had Parkinson's disease and made the decision to stop eating. It took him about five weeks to die.
"Towards the end he was no longer able to walk or talk or eat food and, of course, his quality of life was quite challenging and quite poor," she said.
"He used to be this amazing person, so independent, so focused on trying to bring the best for his family and towards the end he was no longer able to face the intolerable suffering that he was really facing."
Ms Pavkovic said she felt listened too when she saw the territory's proposal.
Voluntary assisted dying could be available to Canberrans by late-2025. Under the ACT's legislation, a person will be able to access voluntary assisted dying if they have an illness that is advanced, progressive, and expected to cause death. A person must be "suffering intolerably" and have decision-making capacity.
But unlike other legislation in all other Australian states, the ACT won't require a time frame to death.
Go Gentle Australia chief executive Linda Swan said the ACT should be commended for its legislation and the way the bill had been drafted, she especially welcomed the fact the territory's bill did not include a time frame to an expected death.
"Dying people do not respond well to a deadline and if you're in the last months of life and you're trying to navigate the very complex, rightly so careful and complex process, it can become an incredibly arduous process for many people and their families," she said.
However, opponents of voluntary assisted dying were against the ACT's proposal, including ACT Labor 2016 and 2020 election candidate Brendan Long who has been a long-time opponent to voluntary assisted dying. Dr Long has campaigned against legislation as it has been introduced across the country and said the territory's bill was a "very dangerous piece of legislation".
"I've had the opportunity to campaign against the legislation across the country and this is the worst bill that has been put forward. It contains the weakest safeguards and it's going to create the greatest risk to the most vulnerable people in the territory," he said.
"I have serious doubts about whether the territory is a big enough jurisdiction to run its own regulatory framework for something as complex as this."
Catholic Archdiocese of Canberra and Goulburn chancellor Patrick McArdle questioned the provision of conscientious objection in the territory's bill. The bill allows for a conscientious objection from health professionals but if a health professional is against voluntary assisted dying they must let a patient know as soon as possible so they are able to seek advice elsewhere.
"The government has indicated there will be individual conscientious objection and some level of institutional conscientious objection. However, there does seem to be an implication that will require some means of referral to someone else, which calls into question the very notion of conscientious objection," Dr McArdle said.
"At no point in war, if I object to killing another person, am I required to identify someone else who will do the killing on my behalf? And so that seems to me to be absurd."
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The ACT was banned by legislating on voluntary assisted dying for 25 years by the Federal Parliament. This was overturned last year.
Labor and Liberal members of the Assembly will be given a conscience vote on the bill. Greens support voluntary assisted dying in their party platform but they will be allowed to vote individually on elements of the bill and move any necessary amendments. A select committee with five members has been established to inquire into the bill.
Chief Minister Andrew Barr said from this point forward it will be in the hands of individual parliamentarians.
"My expectation is that this will bring out the best in the territory parliament," he said.
Opposition Leader Elizabeth Lee said she would take the time to thoroughly consider the legislation. She has previously indicated support for voluntary assisted dying but said she would consider matters around having no time frame for death and the sign off from health practitioners.
"These are all issues that I will thoroughly consider and I want to make sure that the community's views are heard," she said.
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