Independent MLC Mike Gaffney has tabled the End of Life Choice (Voluntary Assisted Dying Bill) 2020 in the Tasmanian parliament.
The Upper House will begin debate on the Bill, the fourth of its kind to be considered in Tasmania, on 15 September.
At 157 pages long, Gaffney says the legislation is far more detailed and considered than previous bills. It has been formulated with the assistance of the Office of Parliamentary Counsel, whose functions include helping to draft, amend and prepare proposed legislation.
Gaffney has consulted widely on the makeup of the Bill, and has drawn extensively on evidence from jurisdictions where VAD laws have been working safely and as intended for many years.
Opinion polls show overwhelming support for the right of a competent and eligible adult to access an assisted death. In 2017, the last time an assisted dying bill was considered in the parliament, a Roy Morgan poll found 85% support for the question 'Should a doctor be allowed to give a patient a lethal dose?' The figure reflects similar levels of support for voluntary assisted dying in other Australian states and territories.
The Mercury newspaper recently published a rundown of the proposed legislation, including interviews with Gaffney, and Jacqui and Natalie Gray, the Tasmanian sisters who have spearheaded Tasmania's VAD campaign since the death of their mother Diane from cancer in 2019.
On 19 August, the sisters and Greens leader Cassy O’Connor tabled in parliament a petition of 13,082 signatures in favour of legalising VAD – a record number for a petition in the state.
THE PROPOSED PROCESS
- The person seeking assistance to die makes their first request to do so to their doctor (primary medical practitioner)
- Before accepting the request, the primary practitioner must confirm the patient is eligible and acting of their own free will, and the request must be recorded
- The person must wait at least 48 hours after their first request being accepted before making their second request
- If the primary practitioner accepts the second request, it is referred to one other independent consulting medical practitioner for a second determination
- If the request is confirmed by the consulting practitioner, the process will continue
- If the second request is confirmed by the consulting practitioner, the person must wait at least 48 hours before making their final request
- When the primary practitioner accepts the final request, they can have a prescription made up for a VAD substance
- This substance can then be administered to the person by a health practitioner at a time of their choosing
- If the person is terminal within six months or twelve months (neurological disorder) the person can apply to self-administer
WHO WILL BE ELIGIBLE
- The person has attained the age of 18 years
- Must be a Tasmanian resident who has lived in the state 12 months prior to making the request
- The person must have decision-making capacity
- The person must be acting voluntarily
- The person must be suffering intolerably, in relation to a relevant medical condition that will cause death
FEATURES OF THE BILL
- The person is able, at any stage, to withdraw from the VAD process
- Doctors, nurses and medical staff who wish to be involved in the VAD process must voluntarily undertake the required training course and have five years experience
- The appointed Commissioner of VAD is required to provide a full report on the operation of the Act after its first six months in operation, followed by a full review after its first three years, and every five years thereafter
- At every stage of the process, at any point, primary practitioners and consulting practitioners are able to request extra medical history information, additional examinations and psychological advice in relation to the patient
- End of life choices, including palliative care options, must have been fully explained and explored for the person
- All decisions and declarations made by the VAD person must be made free of duress, coercion, threat of punishment, or promise of some kind of benefit to another person
- No medical practitioner or witness can have any vested interest in the death of the person
If you live in Tasmania and support the right for competent and eligible adults to access voluntary assisted dying, please write to your MPs and urge them to support the Voluntary Assisted Dying Bill 2020.
You can find your MPs' contact details using our MP Look Up Tool.