The first step in achieving the choice of Voluntary Assisted Dying in South Australia has been achieved with overwhelming support for the legislation in the Legislative Council. At 11.40pm on Wednesday, May 5, 2021, Legislative Councillors voted 14 in favour and 7 against at the final Reading of the VAD Bill 2020.
After six hours of debate, over two days, and consideration of numerous amendments, majority support for compassion and choice in the Legislative Council was clear. Eligibility criteria are exactly the same as the criteria in Victoria's VAD Act (2017): diagnosis by two separate doctors, one a specialist in the medical condition or illness, and a prognosis of less than six months, or 12 months for a neurodegenerative disease.
The debate was led by Hon Kyam Maher, Shadow Attorney General and Leader of the Opposition in the Legislative Council, who had tabled the Bill in December 2020. Kyam Maher had chaired the Parliament's Joint Committee on End of Life Choices which reported in October 2020.
During the debate the Health Minister, Hon Stephen Wade, argued strongly for a national VAD model, with consistency in legislation between the states. Amendments proposed by long term opponents of voluntary assisted dying, and which would have moved the South Australian Bill away from the national model developed in Victoria, were opposed, with Stephen Wade leading the debate against many of the amendments.
As in other Parliaments in Australia, it was a conscience vote. The final vote had support from six Labor, four Liberal and four cross-bench MLCs. Opposition was from four Liberal, two Labor and one cross-bench MLC.
The VAD Bill now moves to the House of Assembly where debate is expected to commence during the next sitting week, starting Tuesday, May, 11.