END-OF-LIFE CHOICES

Mr MELHEM (Western Metropolitan) — It was a rare privilege for me to be part of this inquiry. I join the committee chair in thanking the members of the committee for working together. There were no party politics; it was a truly bipartisan approach, and I think the report is great work from the committee. I also want to thank the secretariat, led by Lilian Topic, for the wonderful job it has done. I want to borrow some passages from the report:

“The will to live is a strong psychological force within all humans, to fight for survival — particularly in the face of hardship or illness. The committee heard many times during this inquiry about just how passionately people wish to live notwithstanding age and illness.

However death is not an event that can be avoided, and every one of us would like to die well when the time comes.

The report deals with three broad themes: the role and provision of palliative care, the need for advance care planning and legalisation of assisted dying”.

When the inquiry started I had one view in relation to this subject — I was in the ‘No’ camp. I was in the camp of, ‘No, we don’t need to look at euthanasia or assisted dying in this state’. That was my view. But then on the evidence and from hearing the arguments of various people, and great people — we heard from a lot of individuals in the state of Victoria and a lot of professionals and organisations, and we also visited various jurisdictions around the world — my view was actually changed. My view now is that I support the majority report on the inquiry to provide Victorians with self‑determination. If a patient at the end of his or her life — and we are talking about the end of their life — wants to make the decision themself to end their life on their own terms, I think they should be given that right.

Do I support euthanasia? My view is still no. I do not believe that, if a person has not got the competency to make their own decision, someone else can make the decision on their behalf. I do not support that position. But certainly when a person is competent and his or her suffering cannot be alleviated and that is the medical opinion of a primary doctor and a secondary doctor and the person clearly wants to make that decision in the last few weeks of their life, I think they should be allowed to have that option. We heard the arguments and the evidence from the Coroners Court, and various coroners turned up to the hearings and gave us evidence. To me, when people take their lives today because they cannot take the pain and they go and use illegal means to do so and there is lots of suffering as a result of it, the proposal by the committee for the government to consider that I think is the right way to alleviate these things.

With palliative care, I think we should be proud that the state of Victoria has an excellent palliative care system that is working really well. In fact Australia is ranked no. 2 in the world. But further work can be done on this, and I am pleased that the Andrews Labor government has started a process to review the current palliative care system in this state with a view to further improving our palliative care system. To introduce any changes to the current laws, we must have a world‑class, first‑class palliative care system. Our aim always has to be to alleviate pain and prolong life. It is not about ending and shortening the lives of our citizens; it is quite the opposite. We want to lengthen their lives, but we want to take the pain away. When we cannot achieve that and an individual wants to choose to end their life, I think that choice should be given to them. Obviously mentally ill patients will not be able to access that, because it is problematic.

It is important that we understand the difference between euthanasia and what is being proposed here. I will finish off by again thanking all the committee members for the work they have done. Whether people were for or against, everyone was quite respectful. I am sure the government will give this report due consideration. I look forward to the government’s response in relation to this. I will definitely be advocating that this is the way to go in the state of Victoria. I again want to thank the house for its patience. I commend the report to the house.