July 4, 2022

Tasmania to vote on euthanasia

Following a public consultation earlier this year, the Labor Premier of the Australian state of Tasmania and the leader of the Greens Party have finally introduced a private member’s bill to legalise both assisted suicide and euthanasia.

Tasmania’s Premier, Lara Giddings    

Following a public consultation earlier this year, the Labor Premier of the Australian state of Tasmania and the leader of the Greens Party have finally introduced a private member’s bill to legalise both assisted suicide and euthanasia.

Premier Lara Giddings is determined to leave “assisted dying” as a legacy to her state before next year’s election — which she is expected to lose. She says on her website: “Who are we to say to an independent, competent adult that has voluntarily, persistently and consistently made a request for assistance to end their life that they must continue to live with pain and suffering, rather than allowing than allowing them to end their life at the time of their choosing?”

The word “euthanasia” is nowhere mentioned in the proposed legislation or in an accompanying memorandum. However, if the bill passes, Tasmania will become only the fourth jurisdiction in the world to authorise doctors to administer lethal medications.

According to the memorandum, the bill provides the following safeguards, amongst others. However, on some significant points, the wording of the bill and the memorandum differ. 

  • two doctors must confirm that the request is competent and reasonable
  • the patient must make an oral request, wait three days, then make a written request, wait seven days, and then confirm again before taking a lethal prescription.
  • The patient can rescind his request at any stage.
  • No health care provider is obliged to provide assistance to die (although they are obliged to inform the patient of their options).
  • Psychological illness does not make a person eligible.
  • To discourage “death tourism”, only Tasmanian residents will be eligible, although residence is loosely defined and could be as short as one month.  

One interesting feature of the bill is that it has telescoped the time for the assisted dying process. In their consultation document Giddings and the Greens leader Nick McKim had proposed that it should take at least 17 days. In its final form, the bill provides for only 10 days. 

Michael Cook
Creative commons
assisted suicide
euthanasia
Tasmania