In 2018 the Hon. Michael Gaffney undertook extensive research into Voluntary Assisted Dying. He spoke to countless experts, travelled to overseas jursidictions with Voluntary Asssited Dying legislation in place. He then set out to develop a bill that was tailored to Tasmania. Late 2019 and early 2020 he conducted no fewer than 30 public forums to consult with communities across Tasmania. It has been formulated with the assistance of the Office of Parliamentary Counsel, whose functions include helping to draft, amend and prepare proposed legislation. The bill was tabled in the Legislative Council in September 2020.
After the bill passed the Legislative Council in November 2020 with a uninimous vote, it was then referred to the Legislative Assembly. Following a first vote of 17-8 in support, it was referred to an expert panel of the University of Tasmania for a review. The panel sought expert submissions, and in February 2021 released its Final Report. On 5 March 2020 the Legislative Assembly passed the law, which then returned to the Legislative Council where it cleared its final hurdle on 23 March.
The law will offer a choice to competent adults with a terminal illness and six months or less to live. For those dying of neuro-degenerative diseases, such as Motor Neurone Disease or MS, the time frame is extended to twelve months. It will come into effect in 2022.
Read the facts about how Voluntary Assisted dying laws work.
How the law will work
The Tasmanian Act is closely modelled on the Victorian Voluntary Assisted Dying Act (2017) and Western Australian Voluntary Assisted Dying Act (2019).
Key points of the Tasmanian End-of-Life Choices (Voluntary Assisted Dying) Act 2021 are:
- The person must be 18 years or over; and
- Be a resident of Tasmania for at least 12 months and an Australian citizen or permanent resident OR has been resident in Australia for at least 3 continuous years immediately before making a first request;
- Have decision-making capacity in relation to voluntary assisted dying; and
- Be diagnosed with an incurable disease, illness or medical condition that:
- is advanced, progressive and will cause death; and
- is expected to cause death within 6 months (or 12 months in case of a neuro-degenerative disorder)
- is causing suffering that cannot be relieved in a manner the person deems tolerable.
- To access the regime, a person has to make three requests and four assessments for eligibility.
- Only one of the assessments needs to be face to face.
- Those requests have to be signed off by two doctors who are independent of each other.
- There is no explicit waiting period between the initial request and final approval.
- A person can choose for a medical practitioner to administer the drug.
- Doctors and other healthcare workers are permitted to raise the option of assisted dying with their patients.
- The person must make the request themselves. Nobody else is authorised to make the request, and the request cannot be made via an advance care directive.
- The person must maintain decision-making capacity at all three requests.
- Participating doctors must complete training for voluntary assisted dying.
- Any healthcare worker may decline to participate for any reason, without penalty.
- A Review Board will be established to receive assisted dying reports, to assess reports, and to refer unacceptable cases to disciplinary or prosecutorial authorities.
- Parliament will periodically review the law and summary reports.
Read more about the Voluntary Assisted Dying legislation at the Tasmanian Department of Health.
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