From 24-26 August, Professor Ian Olver AM and I had the unique opportunity of speaking to most Tasmanian MPs in relation to Mike Gaffney’s assisted suicide Bill.
In three days we spoke to five Government Ministers including the Attorney-General and the Health Minister, the Leader and Deputy Leader of the Labor Party and a number of other Labor members, the Leader of the Greens, the Speaker and last but not least to the Legislative Council members.
I want to record my thanks to all the MPs and Ministers who gave us time. I also want to thank Prof. Olver for his generous support. It was great to have one of Australia’s leading oncologists and bio-ethicists speaking on the vital issue.
Prof Olver told MPs that assisted suicide should not be considered until there was adequate palliative care treatment available to all in Tasmania. He explained that palliative care was not just pain relief but included counselling to help people find meaning for the last chapter of their lives. Interestingly, he said that 82% of those who accessed assisted suicide in Canada (they call it Medically Assisted Dying – MAD for short!) did not do so because of pain, but because they felt they were of no more use, and the like.
I said that the Bill was more about encouraging assisted suicide than merely facilitating it, because it:
- Does not require a person to be terminally ill (there is not time limit as to when the condition may cause death;
- Does not require a person to be currently suffering – the mere anticipation of suffering from the condition, complications or treatment at some time in the future;
- Allows junior doctors to make life ending decisions and advise on matters like the particular condition of the person and its development, possible complications and treatment, psychiatric conditions, mental capacity and palliative care, when they may have little or no knowledge in relation to many of these matters.
I was not alone in my criticism of the Bill. The AMA told the Legislative Council that the Bill was poorly drafted, poorly conceived, riddled with ambiguity and rushed. The Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation also expressed concerns about the drafting of the Bill.
However on 27 August, Mike Gaffney tabled his bill in the Upper House. It will be debated on 15 September. We have two weeks of work ahead of us...
Please take time to pray earnestly about this issue. Please ask all your churches to pray. Please see, call or write to your local Upper House members and ask them to reject the Bill.