Mersey independent MLC Mike Gaffney has welcomed government departments’ feedback on legislation which aims to introduce voluntary assisted dying as an end-of-life choice in Tasmania.
Mr Gaffney tabled the state’s fourth VAD bill in the upper house last month and debate on the bill will begin on September 15.
An analysis informed by government departments and provided to all members of the Parliament said the bill “potentially poses significant risks to patients”.
The analysis also questioned the cost of funding a Commissioner of VAD and support staff, and raised issues around the incorrect diagnosis of a medical condition and decision-making by people with a disability.
Mr Gaffney said he was pleased to receive feedback from the departments on the bill but some points were redundant because they were based on earlier drafts.
“There are some comments which may serve as the basis for amendments which might help with the bill’s effectiveness,” he said.
“For example, the implementation time is currently 12 months. If the government truly believes that 18 months might provide a better and more thorough implementation process, I think that is perfectly logical.
“It is pleasing that the Premier has made the comments from the departments available to members – this will assist for informed debate.”
Mr Gaffney said costs associated with the bill were a matter for the government and would be finalised during the implementation process.
He said he was saddened to see the point made regarding the possibility of an incorrect diagnosis which he said was an insult to Tasmanian doctors and nurses.
In other news:
He also said the issue around people with a disability was not as complicated as the analysis implied.
“Having a disability does not preclude a person from applying for the VAD process. However, having a disability does not necessarily mean that a person meets the eligibility criteria for a relevant medical condition,” Mr Gaffney said.
Greens leader Cassy O’Connor said it was clear none of the issues raised in the analysis were a deal-breaker and as legislators politicians should be able to respond to any issues raised in the debate.
“Unfortunately some members will use the issues raised in the letter to yet again not support VAD,” Ms O’Connor said.
Ms O’Connor said she hoped this would not hold back reform but she was somewhat comforted by the fact Mr Gaffney was relatively relaxed about the analysis.
Premier Peter Gutwein would not be drawn to comment on the bill.
“I’ve provided my members with a conscience vote and requested advice from government departments in terms of the mechanics of the implementation of the bill not the policy of the bill,” Mr Gutwein said.
“I’ll refrain from taking a position before the debate.”