Thanks Tasmania for continuing to care for the most vulnerable members of our community
Good news this week as Tasmanian Politicians voted against proposals to introduce Euthanasia 16 to 8, following a conscience vote in the State's Lower House.
The Voluntary Assisted Dying Bill was Tasmania's third attempt to introduce euthanasia in the last 10 years. The bill, which was co-sponsored by Labor MP Lara Giddings and Greens leader Cassy O'Connor proposed to allow the introduction of assisted suicide (aka euthanasia) in certain circumstances.
The Bill outlined that access to a lethal drug would be made available for adults judged competent to make the decision to end their own life. These same adults would also have to be diagnosed with what was considered an eligible medical condition. Access to the lethal drug would require diagnosis by a specialist and be signed off by two independent doctors. Such limits and safeguards were hailed as 'safety nets' to ensure that assisted suicide would be limited to only to a few in Tasmania.
As we know, safeguards of this nature have been demonstrated to ultimately fail. Significantly, in the case of assisted suicide, what happens when an individual cannot self-administer a lethal dose? They obviously require someone else to do it for them. What is being proposed therefore is not just assisted suicide, but including the legalising of euthanasia. Further, what happens as in reported cases where the lethal dose results in a laboured and prolonged death? Would health practitioners be required to be present while the individual self-administers the lethal drug?
Other questions this legislation raises include: Who is going to be taught and where how to administer lethal drugs? What are the safeguards that lethal drugs and dosages will not be consumed by people other than those for whom they are prescribed? What are the safeguards against crime and/or a black market arising from increased availability of drugs and dosages that are poisonous for human consumption?
During the debate this week, Premier Will Hodgman said he remained concerned about the vulnerable and at the same time suggested it was not the end of the debate.
"I am concerned about the nature of assisted dying being available to those with a non-terminal illness and those of a young age. I remain concerned at the risk of those vulnerable.”
"Protection for these people cannot be guaranteed by this legislation. It is easy in theory but a lot less so in practice."
The Minister for Health Michael Ferguson also expressed his opposition to the legislation clearly stating the inherent contradiction found in euthanasia/assisted suicide legislation: "This is, in fact, a dangerous bill that will, in fact, create a different group of cruel tragedies. We've said every suicide is too many yet before us is a bill that would sanction suicide."
Despite the legislation's defeat, a number of supporters including Tasmania's Dying with Dignity President Margaret Sing expressed their fury over the outcome. Ms Sing stated that the decision showed cowardliness and a "lack of respect" for those people making a decision to end their life.
Assisted suicide does not, however, occur in a vacuum, impacting only on the person seeking death. Instead, it involves a whole community, such acts are deeply communitarian. A community that allows the legislation of assisted suicide, even if only for a few, in the beginning, is a sign that this community has lost hope in science, in medical and nursing care and in psychological and social services in the care of those facing end of life.
The unpredictability of how our lives will end can make the discussions around death difficult. We do however as a community have an important part to play to ensure that no person feels that they have become a burden on society. We have an important role to play in helping to ease anxieties and fears around death. In truth, when a person’s life is ending, we have an opportunity to accompany them til they breathe their last breath. Appropriate palliative care services which incorporate a multidisciplinary approach should provide for the needs of the individual in a holistic manner. It should maximise comfort and support, minimise pain and suffering, and engage the individual and their family in choices about how best to live out their final days to have a good death.
Please join us in thanking those Politicians in Tasmania who voted against the Voluntary Assisted Dying Bill. We thank them for taking a stand for life, for not abandoning those who may be in a state of transition from cure to comfort in their life journey. We hope that in Tasmania our representatives will continue to seek to improve the quality of care for those at the end of life and ensure adequate resourcing of palliative care services.
How the politicians voted in the Tasmanian House of Assembly:
Cassy O'Connor (Greens), Andrea Dawkins (Greens), Rosalie Woodruff (Greens), Lara Giddings (ALP), Rebecca White (ALP), Michelle O'Byrne (ALP), Scott Bacon (ALP), Nic Street (Liberal).
Will Hodgman (Liberal), Michael Ferguson (Liberal), Guy Barnett (Liberal), Jacquie Petrusma (Liberal), Rene Hidding (Liberal), David Llewellyn (ALP), Madeleine Ogilvie (ALP), Sarah Courtney (Liberal), Roger Jaensch (Liberal), Jeremy Rockliff (Liberal), Shane Broad (ALP), Matthew Groom (Liberal), Peter Gutwein (Liberal), Adam Brooks (Liberal), Mark Shelton (Liberal), Joan Rylah (Liberal).
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Thanks for standing up for the most vulnerable with truth and compassion