Tasmania: Calls for referendum on voluntary euthanasia

Tuesday 8 October 2013 @ 9.26 a.m. | Legal Research

The Voluntary Assisted Dying Bill 2013 has been tabled in the Tasmanian parliament, allowing terminally ill patients to end their lives within 10 days of making a request to a doctor. The Prime Minister has said he does not support the move and would prefer to maintain the status quo; however, he does not believe the Federal Government could overturn the proposed changes.

"I am happy to argue that things like this are best left to the discretion of doctors and patients...There's no reason why doctors can't administer pain relief and we know that sometimes if you administer pain relief, you do have, I suppose, the unintended consequence of shortening life."

The Provisions of the Bill

According to the bill, persons requesting medically assisted dying must be:

  • An adult who has attained the age of 18 years;
  • Competent in the eyes of a registered counselling practitioner; and
  • Making the request voluntarily

The Bill also provides that only an eligible person may make an eligible request as defined in sections 9 and 10 of the Bill.

Criticisms and Further Proposals Surrounding the Legislation

Mr Abbott argues that changing the law may lead to situations where people not in imminent danger of death are being assisted to die, which he describes as a very different scenario to voluntarily assisted dying with dignity decisions.

The Australian Medical Association has also raised concerns about the bill, saying that it puts doctors in a difficult position. Doctors have called for a referendum on the the issue.

Lobby group Dying with Dignity says 80 per cent of Tasmanians support the proposed change in a recent Greens Media Release

A 2011 survey found that 75% of Australians believed that a terminally ill person should be allowed to access physician assisted suicide and the Greens have indicated their proposal to move for a Senate Inquiry into Dying with Dignity Legislation, the first at a Federal level.

An earlier attempt to introduce voluntary euthanasia legislation was rejected by the Tasmanian Parliament five years ago.

Both the ACT and NT have previously introduced Voluntary Euthanasia legislation with varying degrees of success, and, as previously reported by TimeBase, NSW, WA and SA all have bills progressing through Parliament now.

The bill will be debated in Tasmania's Parliament next month.

TimeBase is an independent, privately owned Australian legal publisher specialising in the online delivery of accurate, comprehensive and innovative legislation research tools including LawOne and unique Point-in-Time Products.


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