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NSW upper house VAD debate continues

After years of heated debate and dozens of last-minute amendments, laws allowing terminally ill people in NSW to voluntarily end their own lives remain on track to pass the state parliament.

The legislation is set to reach a final vote in the upper house this week, after members debated close to 100 late amendments for 12 hours through to midnight on Wednesday.

A total of 92 amendments to the bill were proposed and debated in blocks in the upper house, and the debate will resume on Thursday.

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

Two technical amendments put forward by Education Minister Sarah Mitchell were approved, as well as one from Labor MP Greg Donnelly, who proposed more than 30 amendments.

Ms Mitchell said she intended to vote in favour of the bill.

“It’s important that members have the chance to raise any amendments that they may have,” Ms Mitchell said.

“But I would certainly like to see that bill completed this week.”

Labor MP Adam Searle, who had carriage of the bill in the upper house, also proposed an amendment regarding data collection benchmarks.

One of Mr Donnelly’s amendments proposed that 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,” Mr Donnelly told the upper house on Wednesday.

Mr Donnelly also proposed that dying patients must be able to communicate clearly and unambiguously.

Supporters said changes to definitions around communication risked making euthanasia inaccessible for patients with motor neurone disease, or locked-in syndrome.

Mr Donnelly also proposed an amendment that would allow religious residential aged care facilities to ban residents from accessing voluntary assisted dying.

Mr Donnelly suggested terminally ill patients could move to facilities that did not oppose voluntary assisted dying.

The amendments were defeated during divisions.

Minister for Regional Health Bronnie Taylor spoke to oppose that amendment, saying the bill went far enough to appease the rights of aged care institutions.

“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,” Ms Taylor 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 clinical nurse specialising in palliative care, said she spoke with experience.

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

A poll conducted by Go Gentle Australia indicated three quarters of NSW residents support dying people accessing all legal medical treatment options within their own home, including aged care facilities.

Numerous amendments proposed by Mr Donnelly and independent MP Fred Nile were defeated during divisions.

Independent MP for Sydney and architect of the legislation, Alex Greenwich, had been hopeful the bill would finally pass after years of campaigning.

“Today is a really important day in NSW,” he told Sydney radio 2GB on Wednesday.

“We hope that by the end of it people with cruel and advanced terminal illnesses will have the same end of life care offerings as people in every other state.”

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