Voluntary Assisted Dying Bill 2019
Wednesday, 27 November 2019
The Law Society of Western Australia has released its submission in response to the Voluntary Assisted Dying Bill 2019 (WA) (the VAD Bill) introduced into the Western Australian Parliament on 7 August 2019.
Law Society President Greg McIntyre SC said, “The Law Society has considered the VAD Bill solely from the perspective of what is a proper form of the law proposed. The Law Society’s submission does not address the VAD Bill from a moral, religious or policy viewpoint and is divided into the discrete areas of law that arise in the VAD Bill.”
The President confirmed that the Law Society was best placed to review and consider law reform when drafted as a Bill and given the complex nature of this Bill a draft Consultation Bill would have been an appropriate process.
The Law Society has identified eight areas in the submission that should be given further consideration by the Parliament during the debate of the VAD Bill. These are:
- Safeguarding Against Abuse and Coercion – including an amendment to provide that safeguarding functions could be given to existing State and Territory agencies, consistent with recommendations in the Australian Law Reform Commission Report Elder Abuse – A National Legal Response.
- Capacity – including in the VAD Bill the Voluntary Assisted Dying Act 2017 (Vic) (the Victorian Act) procedure for the making of the voluntary assisted dying decision and that a person only has decision-making capacity if that person can retain that information to the extent necessary to make the decision.
- Provision of Information and Documentation – including that a registered health practitioner must not initiate discussion with a patient about voluntary assisted dying.
- Qualifications and Competencies of Health Practitioners – including an amendment to require that the provisions in the Victorian Act regarding the number of years a medical practitioner must have practised be consistent with what is required in the VAD Bill.
- Cause of Death Certificate – The Law Society maintains its position set out in its letter to the Ministerial Expert Panel (dated 31 May 2019).
- Guardianship and Administration Act 1990 (WA) – including the position that a directive relating to voluntary assisted dying should not be included in an advanced health directive.
- Criminal Offences – including the jurisdiction of the courts should be consistent with current offences particularly given recent amendments to the jurisdiction of the District Court, allowing it to deal with offences attracting a penalty of life imprisonment, the offences of unauthorised administration of a prescribed substance (clause 98) and inducing self-administration of a prescribed substance (clause 100) would be dealt with in the District Court, not the Supreme Court.
- Guidelines – including that the making of guidelines should be subject to tabling in Parliament and disallowance as is the case for regulations.
– ENDS –
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About us: The Law Society of Western Australia is the peak professional association for lawyers in the State. The Society is a not-for-profit association dedicated to the representation of its more than 4,000 members. The Society enhances the legal profession through its position as a respected leader and contributor on law reform, access to justice and the rule of law. The Society is widely acknowledged by the legal profession, government and the community as the voice of the legal profession in Western Australia.