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Euthanasia bill fails in SA by one vote

AAP logoAAP 16/11/2016 Marnie Banger

The 15th attempt to pass voluntary euthanasia legislation in South Australia has failed by the narrowest of margins but TV presenter and advocate Andrew Denton says the issue will not go away.

After an overnight sitting, the latest bill was defeated in parliament's lower house on Thursday morning on the casting ballot of speaker Michael Atkinson after MPs were deadlocked at 23-23 on a conscience vote.

It had earlier passed a second reading vote, the first time such legislation had got so far.

Premier Jay Weatherill said he felt "gutted" by the defeat but that he was sure a new bill would be introduced in time.

Opposition Leader Steven Marshall, who like Mr Weatherill voted in favour, agreed another attempt was likely, but not until the makeup of SA's parliament changed or an MP had a change of heart.

Mr Denton, a strong supporter of voluntary euthanasia since the death of his father almost 20 years ago, said the bill's failure did not reflect the views of the majority of South Australians.

"The problem is not going away and the members of the house are kidding themselves if they think they've killed it off," Mr Denton told AAP.

"There is no cure for cancer, there is no cure for motor neuron disease, there is no cure for multiple sclerosis.

"All those people who are facing painful deaths are still going to be facing those painful deaths."

The latest bill was introduced by Liberal MP Duncan McFedtridge last month.

In his speech during the second reading on Wednesday night, Dr McFedtridge said the person most likely to make use of the provisions would be about 70 years of age and suffering from cancer.

"There will be no further treatment and they will usually only have days or weeks to live," he told parliament.

"They will be losing dignity, they will be in pain, they will have had enough."

One of the strongest opponents to the legislation, Labor backbencher Tom Kenyon, who said his stand was influenced by his religious beliefs, said the concept of euthanasia was fundamentally flawed.

Mr Kenyon said he was also concerned about the potential breakdown of any safeguards put in place.

The original bill required someone to have a terminal illness and to be suffering unbearable pain that could not be relieved through other measures before they could access assistance in ending their life.

They also needed to have their decision endorsed by at least two doctors.

A number of amendments were passed to tighten access to the provisions, including making a mental health assessment mandatory.

The Australian Christian Lobby said the final bill was a "cobbled together compromise" and welcomed its defeat, suggesting palliative care was better.

"As a just and compassionate society we can find better ways to deal with the suffering which does not draw us into providing state-sanctioned killing," managing director Lyle Shelton said.

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