A bill to allow voluntary assisted dying to be an end-of-life option in Tasmania is expected to pass the Legislative Council.
The chamber’s 15 members were canvassed this week on how they would vote.
A majority of members said they supported the bill or supported its principle.
Many wanted to wait until the bill had been tabled or the debate had occurred before confirming their absolute position.
In other news:
The chamber’s five Labor members have expressed in-principle support but it is not expected there will be a tie requiring president Craig Farrell to vote.
Mr Gaffney will table the bill to the Legislative Council on August 27.
He plans to give his second reading speech on September 15 which will allow debate between members to begin.
Mr Gaffney said he would table submissions he had received to the bill and numerous personal stories on September 25. Briefings will be held for members on Tuesday, August 25.
Mr Gaffney said the Tasmanian branch of Dying with Dignity, the Australian Medical Association, the Australian Midwifery and Nurses Federation, and Palliative Care Tasmania would participate in the briefings.
He said the Australian Christian Lobby, representatives from the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners, pharmacists who had participated in the Victorian VAD bill, and a Christian lobby group in support of VAD would also take part in the briefings.
If they choose they don’t want to be here anymore, I don’t think I have the right to say no.
McIntyre independent MLC Tania Rattray
McIntyre independent MLC Tania Rattray said there was support in her electorate for the bill.
She said she would vote in favour of the bill, but needed to be confident the steps in the VAD process were legislatively robust.
“Palliative care can work fantastically for some … but it doesn’t always meet the needs of some people,” Ms Rattray said.
“If they choose they don’t want to be here anymore, I don’t think I have the right to say no.”
She said she needed to be certain there were safeguards to protect vulnerable people from being pressured or coerced to end their lives.
Ms Rattray said ultimately the principle of the bill was to provide choice.
“If you are against VAD, you’ll never have to use it,” she said.
Launceston independent MLC Rosemary Armitage said she supported the bill in principle, but it perhaps needed to be sharpened up with amendments.
“I’m certainly not going to go against the wishes of my community and the majority I have asked are saying we want the choice,” she said.
“Realistically, to give them choice, I have to support it.”
Ms Armitage said an expert panel could be potentially needed to assess VAD in the state to help inform the bill.
She said questions remained over how VAD in the state would be resourced and how training for doctors and nurses would be paid for.
Windermere independent MLC Ivan Dean said he was yet to be convinced the bill was watertight.
“Whilst I might have a personal position, it is not just that position that I will be putting forward,” he said.
“I need to be satisfied that this cannot be corrupted in any way.”
“My position is that I’d like to support it, but I’ve got to make sure everything else is in place.”
Mr Dean said there was international evidence that desperately ill people had been taken advantage of in a VAD process.
“People cannot be indoctrinated and families cannot interfere with a decision to be made by the person involved,” he said.
Murchison independent MLC Ruth Forrest said she would wait for more feedback on the bill’s final draft before resting on a position.
She said she wasn’t sure a range of health professionals, who would be integral to the success of the legislation, had been well enough consulted.
“If it is to be supported, we need to be sure that it doesn’t expose health professionals and patients to risk in any sense as much as possible,” Ms Forrest said.
“At the moment, there are too many unknowns for me.”
Hobart independent MLC Rob Valentine said he supported a person’s right to choose a VAD provided they had the capacity to make that decision.
He said it was important people also had the right to refuse to take part in the process were protected, such as doctors and nurses with a fundamental objection to VAD.
Mr Valentine said he was still examining the bill to ensure there were no unintended consequences so was unable to say how he would vote on it.
Nelson independent MLC Meg Webb said she was personally broadly supportive of Tasmanians having VAD as an option in end-of-life care.
“Evidence tells us that, in circumstances of great suffering when so much is beyond their control, people feel empowered to know that they have such a choice available,” she said.
“I understand that people want reassurance there are protections in place for those who are vulnerable, and fortunately we can look to the experience of other jurisdictions to inform us on how best to provide that protection.”
Ms Webb said a majority of people who had contacted her on the issue expressed support for the bill.
Labor health spokeswoman Sarah Lovell said party members believed in a compassionate society that provided freedom of choice to people at the end of life and respected their wish for a peaceful death.
“Where there are appropriate safeguards in place to protect vulnerable people, an individual should have the right to choose this option in consultation with their doctor and their family,” Ms Lovell said.
“We will carefully review the bill in its final form.”
A government spokesperson said Liberal members in both houses would have the option of a conscience vote when the matter came before Parliament.
When approached individually, no Liberal member would say if they supported or opposed the bill with the exception of Speaker Sue Hickey.
When the bill reaches the lower house for the fourth time, it is also likely to pass.
Greens Cassy O’Connor and Rosalie Woodruff, who both voted in favour of VAD in 2017, will be supporting the new bill.
Ms O’Connor said at the heart of this legislation was compassion and respect for human dignity.
“With opinion polling time and again, overwhelmingly the response has been Tasmanians support a safe, legal framework for VAD,” she said.
“We’re elected to represent our communities, and that’s what Rosalie Woodruff and I will remember as we vote for this bill.”
The lower house’s nine Labor members also support the bill in principle.
Clark independent MHA Madeleine Ogilvie, who voted against the previous bill in 2017, said she had read the latest incarnation of the bill, but did not disclose how she would vote on it.
“This is such an important community conversation I think a parliamentary inquiry would be prudent,” she said.
Ms Hickey said she would be supporting the bill, should she be required to vote.
Liberal candidate Felix Ellis, who is set to replace outgoing Liberal Joan Rylah in Braddon, said he would not comment ahead of the recount being finalised.
In 2017, Liberals Peter Gutwein, Jeremy Rockliff, Roger Jaensch, Michael Ferguson, Guy Barnett, Jacquie Petrusma, Sarah Courtney and Mark Shelton voted against VAD.
Nic Street was the only Liberal member to vote in favour of the bill.
Then-speaker Elise Archer was not required to vote and John Tucker was not yet elected at the time.
It is expected Mr Street will again vote in favour of this new bill, meaning it will pass with Ms Hickey’s casting vote 13-12 even if no other Liberal members support it.
What do you think? Send us a letter to the editor: