Dying with Dignity Tasmania has called on the AMA Tasmanian Branch to explain whether it supports the view of its Southern Division President, Dr Gerry McGushin, that vets should be called on to provide voluntary assisted dying to patients if legislation is passed later this year because “local doctors aren’t interested”. The statement was made in an interview on the ABC’s Statewide Morning program on Monday. Dr McGushin also supported the claim made by the President of AMA Tasmania, Dr John Davis, last week that voluntary assisted dying legislation is “state-sanctioned murder”.

The President of Dying with Dignity Tasmania, Margaret Sing, said it was disturbing that representatives of the AMA, the premier organisation in Tasmania representing doctors, would make such emotive, extremist statements when there seems to be no evidence that those views represent official AMA policy. “We will be asking the AMA if it supports the views expressed by its representatives or whether they were expressing unjustifiable, biased personal opinions. We will also be asking what soundly based evidence it has on the views of doctors in Tasmania on this issue generally and in support of particular claims made by its representatives,” she said.

Ms Sing went on to say that there are very good reasons to believe that, if assisted dying legislation is passed, many doctors in Tasmania will behave as compassionately and responsibly as doctors have done in those places that have now had this legal option for many years. “What Dr McGushin and Dr Davis would have the public believe is that no doctors in Tasmania will respond with humanity and respect for their patients’ requests for legal assistance to die when they have prolonged suffering that cannot be relieved adequately by any other means,” Ms Sing said. “We have good reason to believe this is patent nonsense and has no substance or credibility.”

Ms Sing said that members of Parliament have every right to expect the AMA to make a well-informed, evidence-based and rational contribution to the debate on the proposed legislation and to accurately represent the different views within its membership. “The members of the AMA wouldn’t dream of practising medicine on the basis of inaccurate, unreliable and incomplete information, opinions unsupported by any reputable evidence and personal anecdotes. It is equally unacceptable for arguments against proposed legislation put forward by their representatives to be based on such poor quality material,” Ms Sing said.
President of Dying with Dignity Tasmania, Margaret Sing