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Voluntary euthanasia edges closer in NSW

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After years of heated debate and dozens of last-minute amendments, laws allowing terminally ill people in NSW to voluntarily end their own life are set to pass.

The legislation is expected to go to a final vote in the upper house on Thursday, after MPs debated close to 100 late amendments in a marathon 12-hour session until midnight on Wednesday.

Most of the amendments were rejected, including one that would have allowed religious aged care facilities to block residents from accessing voluntary assisted dying.

But the approval of some amendments means the bill will now need to return to the lower house before it can become law.

Supporters of the bill remain confident voluntary assisted dying can be legislated on Thursday.

The bill was introduced into the lower house in October by Independent MP for Sydney Alex Greenwich, with coalition and Labor MPs allowed a conscience vote on the issue.

The bill allows adults with a terminal diagnosis and up to six months to live to voluntarily end their lives with assistance.

Those with a neurodegenerative condition with less than 12 months to live are also included in the legislation.

Patients must have a disease causing suffering that cannot be relieved, have the capacity to make the decision, not be under duress, and have their decision approved by two independent doctors.

Labor MP Greg Donnelly proposed more than 30 amendments, including one stipulating terminally ill patients with mental illnesses, including bipolar disorder or depression, should not be able to access voluntary assisted dying.

“If there is impairment there at all, that should be red-flagged,” he told the upper house on Wednesday.

Mr Donnelly proposed terminally ill people must be able to communicate clearly and unambiguously.

But supporters of the bill said changes to definitions around communication risked making voluntary assisted dying inaccessible for people with motor neurone disease or locked-in syndrome.

Amendments that would allow data monitoring of euthanasia by Independent MP the Rev Fred Nile were rejected, however further data collection amendments introduced by Labor MP Adam Searle were later accepted.

“I am pleased that some degree of data collection has now been amended into the bill,” Mr Nile told AAP.

“However, in time the application of this deadly bill will show the need for further scrutiny and oversight which is what my amendment intended.”

Regional Health Minister Bronnie Taylor opposed the amendment allowing aged care facilities to block residents from accessing voluntary assisted dying.

“People in aged care, in any form of residential care and in hospitals, must retain the right to make choices about their life. Their life and their options,” she said.

“Why would we support a law aimed at substituting their decisions over their life with those of distanced boards and directors?”

Ms Taylor, who previously worked as a palliative care nurse, said she spoke from experience.

“I absolutely respect a person’s choice. This is about choice,” she said.

A poll conducted by Go Gentle Australia indicates three-quarters of NSW residents support allowing the terminally ill to access legal medical options to die in their own home, including aged care facilities.

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– AAP

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