Tasmania has moved closer to legalising euthanasia with new laws passing the Upper House of the state’s parliament.
Tasmanian Senator Eric Abetz however, has criticised the Bill saying the parliament’s focus should be on improving palliative care, and not think of ways to end a patient’s life.
The End-of-Life Choices (Voluntary Assisted Dying) Bill 2020 was voted through the chamber on Nov. 10 and now only needs to pass the House of Assembly.
The Bill’s architect, Independent Upper House member Mike Gaffney, said, “This legislation is simply aimed at helping individuals suffering intolerably find peace.”
This is the fourth attempt to introduce euthanasia laws in Tasmania, after similar legislation was defeated in 2009, 2013 and 2017.
Current Liberal Premier Peter Gutwein told parliament that debate would begin this year and conclude in March.
He has asked the University of Tasmania to examine the bill and compare it to euthanasia laws in Victoria and Western Australia, as well as other countries.
“It is incumbent on all of us to ensure this is the best law possible and it affords real protections to the most vulnerable in our community,” he said.
The Bill is likely to have the numbers needed to pass the lower house.
The Labor and Greens Party, who control 11 of the 25-seat lower house, have indicated their support for the Bill.
The Liberal Party meanwhile will give its members a conscience vote. Liberal Speaker Sue Hickey, who does not vote along party lines, has indicated she backs the Bill.
Senator Abetz said euthanasia laws were inevitably watered down.
“The medical evidence from across the world demonstrates time and time again that euthanasia laws – however well-intentioned – are subject to abuse and end the lives of vulnerable people,” he told The Epoch Times.
“Euthanasia advocates consistently push the idea of strict safeguards and vetting processes, only to loosen these safeguards and implement lower and lower thresholds for those wanting to end their life,” he said.
“The end result is always the same; laws become watered down and abused, and vulnerable people lose their life,” he added. “At a time of increased elder abuse and suicide, this is the wrong direction for public policy.”
A 2011 paper in Current Oncology, a Canadian medical journal, found euthanasia laws and safeguards were “regularly ignored and transgressed.”
It pointed to examples including Flanders, Belgium, where only 52.8 percent of euthanasia (or assisted suicide) cases were officially reported. Meanwhile, in the Netherlands, regulatory standards have been lowered to extend to newborns, children, and people with dementia.
“Increased tolerance of transgressions in societies with such laws represents a social ‘slippery slope’ …” the paper stated.
Since legalising the practice in 2002, euthanasia accounted for 4.4 percent of the Netherlands’ total death rate (pdf) in 2016.