Through teary and tired eyes politicians in Victoria's upper house have voted 22-18 in favour of legalising voluntary assisted dying.

After months of heated debate the controversial legislation cleared what most consider the final hurdle today, with Victoria now poised to become the first Australian state to legalise such a scheme.

The final tick is due next week with the lower house expected to approve amendments before an 18-month turnaround, meaning the scheme can be operational by 2019.

"This is a momentous day in the parliament of Victoria," Labor MP Gavin Jennings told the legislative council after the narrow vote.

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The chamber started sitting at midday yesterday and took only a short break for lunch today during the marathon.

"I haven't had a wink of sleep," the Liberal's Inga Peulich told the legislative council after 27 hours of back-and-forth, as the government-proposed bill neared a vote.

"And that is why I've been critical of the process. These issues are far too important to do on a run and a hop."

Emotions were raw when the vote was finalised.

"You've made a terrible mistake," anti-voluntary assisted dying campaigner Frances Beaumont yelled at MPs.

Euthanasia advocate and media identity Andrew Denton left parliament after the vote without comment, saying he would leave the commentary to the politicians.

Former prime minister Tony Abbott was shocked by the vote calling it a 'dreadful, moral watershed' in Australia's history. Photo / Getty
Former prime minister Tony Abbott was shocked by the vote calling it a 'dreadful, moral watershed' in Australia's history. Photo / Getty

Former prime minister Tony Abbott slammed the pending legalisation as a "dreadful moral watershed" in Australia's history.

He made the comments as his 93-year-old father, Richard, lay in hospital following an apparent serious stroke on Monday morning. His family has since been keeping a bedside vigil at Sydney Adventist Hospital in Wahroonga.

"This is the vigil that families from time to time have to keep over a loved one - it's the respect of the living over the dying," he told Sydney's 2GB today.

He said he was shocked to hear that Victoria's upper house had earlier voted in favour of voluntary assisted dying, which will become law once amendments are approved by the lower house.

"People who are gravely ill should have their pain relieved, not their lives ended," Abbott said.

"This is a dreadful moral watershed in our country's life."

He said the debate around same-sex marriage had distracted from the push to legalise doctor-assisted dying.

He hopes a future Victorian parliament reverses the move.

WHO CAN APPLY?

• Adults, with a progressive, advanced terminal illness and less than six months to live

• Suffering must be deemed "intolerable"

• They must be of sound mind

• Neurodegenerative patients can access the scheme with a life expectancy of 12 months

• Must have lived in Victoria for at least 12 months.

HOW WILL IT WORK?

• Patients must make three, clear requests

• They will be assessed by two experienced doctors, including at least one specialist

• Those approved will be granted permits for lethal medications, which must be self-administered

• A permit will be given for doctors to administer medication only where the patient is physically unable

• Doctors do not have to be present when patients administer medication

• The process to apply and receive medication will take 10 days

• Unused lethal medication must be returned within 15 days of death

• The Department of Health and Human Services will approve applications

• A review board will oversee each step of the process

• Death certificates will record "voluntary assisted dying"

• The coroner must be notified of assisted dying deaths

• An 18-month implementation period means the scheme will be in place by mid-2019.

PENALTIES FOR MISUSE

• If someone breaches the self-administration permit, they face potential life imprisonment

• Anyone who induces a person to request assisted dying faces up to five years jail and substantial fines

• Doctors who suggest the assisted dying scheme to patients face a professional misconduct investigation.

- SOURCE: VICTORIAN GOVERNMENT