Tasmania will become the third Australian state to legalise voluntary assisted dying (VAD), after legislation passed in Tasmania’s parliament on Tuesday.
This was the fourth time the VAD law had come before the Tasmanian parliament since 2009, finally passing the Legislative Council unanimously with MPs in the Lower House voting 16 to six in favour of the bill.
The new laws will allow anyone with less than six months to live, due to a terminal illness, the right to end their life legally.
Victoria was the first state to make VAD legal – in July 2019 – and by May 2020, Cameron McLaren, one of the country’s top euthanasia doctors, had assisted more than 40 deaths in the state. Western Australia was the next to follow suit, with the choice becoming available to people there from July 1 this year.
It’s expected to take about 18 months to implement the new laws in Tasmania.
The bill was introduced by Independent Legislative Councillor Mike Gaffney, who has been a vocal advocate for the issue. According to ABC News, Gaffney became emotional as the bill went through the final stages. “As we went through the clauses, the amendments, I thought, God, this is finally going to get through,” he said. “It’s been two-and-a-half, three years of hard work and it’s a good bill. I’m really pleased I’ve been able to be part of it.
“It will give those Tasmanians who are suffering intolerably, who are eligible, the right to choose. Congratulations Tasmania for getting behind it. I’m really proud of you.”
Tasmanian Premier Peter Gutwein, a Liberal Party member, was also a supporter of the bill, saying via a statement on Facebook that the laws ensured “Tasmanian’s have choice and the best support available when they need it most”.
“When I became Premier, I said I wanted to lead a government of compassion and conviction,” he said. “This week has seen the historic passing of the voluntary assisted dying bill, and earlier this month I announced we would significantly boost funding for palliative care.”
The Northern Territory became the first place in the world to legalise voluntary euthanasia in 1995, however it was short lived with the Federal Government overriding the right of the Northern Territory and Australian Capital Territory to legalise assisted dying in 1997. There are now renewed calls to restore it.
Queensland is expected to be the next state to pass VAD laws. During the election campaign last year, the Labor Party promised to introduce VAD legislation by February, however, it has since requested an extension until early May 2021. (The Queensland Law Reform Commission has flagged it may not meet that date.)
According to GoGentle Australia, a charity advocating VAD, surveys show that about 85 per cent of Australians support the legalisation of VAD to allow for better choice at the end of life.
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