Legislation to provide a safeguarded dying with dignity framework for people suffering agonizing pain and distress that cannot be relieved by palliation, has been defeated in the Tasmanian House of Assembly.
The Voluntary Assisted Dying Bill 2016 is well drafted, robust and strongly safeguarded legislation that reflects all the key provisions of the Canadian assisted dying legal framework which came into effect last year. The Canadian Medical Association supports the Canadian legislation.
While poll after poll, nationally and locally, indicates 80-85% public support for voluntary assisted dying legislation, a majority of Tasmanian MPs from the Liberal and Labor parties defeated this reform.
Franklin Liberal MP, Nic Street, showed far more courage. He became the first Tasmanian Liberal MP ever to vote in support of voluntary assisted dying legislation.
Regrettably, a number of Liberal MPs indicated they support the principle of the legislation, but did not have the courage to vote for it on the Second Reading and to debate any concerns they might have through the clauses in the committee stage of the Bill. We heard the same arguments in 2009 and 2013.
Instead, they voted to refer it to a Parliamentary Standing Committee for yet another inquiry, which is the political equivalent of destroying any chance for reform in this term of government.
Those who voted in support of this legislation were: Lara Giddings, Cassy O’Connor, Rebecca White, Andrea Dawkins, Rosalie Woodruff, Michelle O’Byrne, Scott Bacon and Nic Street.
Those who voted against: Will Hodgman, Michael Ferguson, Madeleine Ogilvie, David Llewellyn, Jacquie Petrusma. Jeremy Rockliff, Rene Hidding, Guy Barnett, Shane Broad, Peter Gutwein, Sarah Courtney, Roger Jaensch, Adam Brooks, Matthew Groom, Mark Shelton and Joan Rylah.
To date, fifteen jurisdictions globally have enacted voluntary assisted dying legislation that is operating safely and providing relief to the desperately suffering, as well as a comfort to people who want to be given the choice if they are in a similar desperate situation.
The Victorian Labor Government has announced its intention to introduce dying with dignity legislation this year, following the recent Victorian Parliamentary inquiry into end of life choices.
The Victorian inquiry found the status quo fails to protect patients and medical professionals, as is the case here. The inquiry heard evidence from the State’s Coroner that between 1 January 2009 and 31 December 2012, 240 people approaching death had taken their own lives.
Comprehensive analysis of the operation of voluntary euthanasia frameworks globally has found no evidence of the ‘slippery slope’ argument put by opponents. To the contrary, the evidence is clear these frameworks are safe, effective and highly valued at the community level.
Tragically, every day the Tasmanian Parliament does not deal with this issue is another day of suffering and potentially choices for people for whom palliation does not and cannot provide relief.
Today, the Tasmanian Parliament again let these people down terribly.
If re-elected, in the next term of Parliament, I will reintroduce dying with dignity legislation for Tasmania as a private member.
I want to personally thank Lara Giddings for the heart, courage and conviction she has brought to this issue. It has been an honour to co-sponsor this Bill with Ms Giddings.
Cassy O’Connor MP | Greens’ Leader