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Congratulations Tassie! Historic win for VAD

23 March, 2021

In a landmark step, Tasmania has become the third Australian state to legalise voluntary assisted dying for the terminally ill.

The Upper House voted in favour of amendments made to the End of Life Choice (Voluntary Assisted Dying) Act 2020 in the Lower House. The bill is now on its way to receiving Royal Assent and will come into effect within 18 months.

The state joins Victoria and Western Australia in allowing people with terminal illness a choice to request medication to end their lives, if their suffering becomes unbearable. 10 million Australians now live in a jurisdiction where voluntary assisted dying laws have passed. The question remains: Why not all states and territories?

We applaud Tasmanian MPs for making compassionate end of life choice accessible to those who need it, with a safe, regulated and effective legal framework. This was the state's fourth attempt to pass a Voluntary Assisted Dying law.

Celebratory scenes in Tasmania's Parliament

 

Credit for Tasmania’s monumental achievement goes to the Hon Mike Gaffney MLC and his team including Bonnie Phillips and Phillip Spratt, who worked tirelessly on the legislation.

A public campaign, which helped mobilise overwhelming community support, was expertly led by Your Choice TAS founders Jacqui and Natalie Gray alongside Dying with Dignity Tasmania.

Jacqui and Nat paid tribute on social media to their mother Diane, who died an excruciating death from gastric cancer in 2019:

“Tasmania — today, we have ALL won. Mum, you are the spark that lit our fire.

"Where there is a will, there is a way," the sisters said. "This result is the legacy of all of our loved ones, that died without this compassionate end of life choice. But, the pain and trauma experienced by each of them, has not been in vain.

"Our loved ones have helped pave the way to allow us this profound freedom of choice — the absolute reassurance that we will never have to suffer intolerably, following a terminal diagnosis.”

Our sincere thanks also go to Tasmania’s Labor, Greens and Independent MPs for getting behind the bill, and to Liberal Premier Peter Gutwein and key government members for making time for the debate and backing a law that so many Tasmanians support.

Last but not least, thank you to each and every Tasmanian who took the time to contact their MP on this issue. Your stories and experiences are, as we know, the most effective way to change MPs' minds and were instrumental in this success. 

Go Gentle Australia's CEO Kiki Paul said, "Go Gentle Australia is delighted to have worked closely with Mike Gaffney and his team to contribute resources, advice and lessons learnt from past successful reforms in Victoria and Western Australia. Tasmanian parliamentarians have set a high bar with this respectful, evidence-based debate.

"We are now looking to parliamentarians in South Australia, Queensland and New South Wales, all of whom will consider voluntary assisted dying legislation this year, to make sure their constituents can access the same compassionate choice at the end of life."

It’s worth noting this is the first time a non-government bill on voluntary assisted dying has succeeded in an Australian state parliament. Tasmania’s legislation originated as a Private Member’s Bill drafted and shepherded by Mike Gaffney and sets a precedent in Australia. Gaffney, pictured below with Dr Cameron McClaren, said:

"Very rarely do bills originate in the Upper House. I think in the last 12 years there's been 10 or 11 bills and only four of those have ever passed … this bill is huge, this is a big bill about a big issue and it originated in the Upper House."

Mike Gaffney MLC & Dr Cameron McLaren

The Tasmanian law’s eligibility criteria echoes Victorian and Western Australian legislation. Australian applicants must be terminally ill, mentally competent adults in the final six months of life (or 12 months for neurodegenerative disorders, such as MND). They must also have been resident in Tasmania for the 12 months preceding their application.


A specialist Commission will be established to oversee the voluntary assisted dying process and will report to the Minister of Health.

 

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