Euthanasia laws to change

Source: The Examiner

Tasmania will again attempt to go it alone on major social reform with plans to legalise voluntary euthanasia by the end of the year.

Premier Lara Giddings and Greens leader Nick McKim yesterday released their proposed model for ``voluntary assisted dying'' and called for public feedback on it, but said now was not the time to debate whether or not voluntary euthanasia should be an option.

``That debate has been won and run in the community and 80 per cent of people we know want law reform in this area,'' Mr McKim said. 

He said doctors motivated by compassion were already euthanising their patients.

``That is indisputable and they're doing so, unfortunately . . . without any legal protection for them and without any mandated system of safeguards for patients and that's just an unconscionable situation.'' 

It is almost four years since Mr McKim introduced the failed Dying with Dignity Bill. 

``During my first attempt at reform in 2009 I was deeply moved by listening to the experiences of many terminally ill people and their families,'' Mr McKim said.

``I pledged to them that I would not give up.''

Estimates of how many people would choose to voluntarily end their lives are as high as 120 people a year, but Ms Giddings said it was more likely to be less than 10. 

She said access would be tightly controlled with safeguards built in, including multiple checks to confirm it is a ``persistent and consistent'' voluntary wish and a two-week ``cooling off'' period. 

The model does not allow people to make an advanced request. 

Ms Giddings suspected the model would disappoint the most passionate euthanasia advocates such as Dr Philip Nitschke. 

``It probably doesn't go far enough for him, but I think the model we have got here is the right model for Tasmania,'' Ms Giddings said.

An independent body would also be established to oversee the process and the legislation would be reviewed after five years.

Ms Giddings and Mr McKim will introduce a private members bill based on the proposed model, which they hope will be debated and passed by both houses of Parliament by the end of the year.

Liberal leader Will Hodgman expected his party would be granted a conscience vote on the legislation. The public has until March 15 to submit feedback.

HOW IT WORKS

1: Patient makes an oral request for an assisted death.

2: At least 48 hours later, patient completes a formal written request, signed by two witnesses. 

3: Two doctors assess condition and competency and if patient is acting voluntarily. If both agree the patient meets these criteria, the process continues. 

4: At the end of a 14-day ``cooling off'' period, patient repeats oral request for an assisted death.

5: The doctor prescribes life-ending medication. 

6: Patient requests the medication be dispensed.

7: Doctor gives patient a final opportunity to rescind their request.

8: Either the patient takes the medication themselves or the doctor administers it. 

9: The death is recorded as an assisted death and medical records are sent to the independent oversight body. 

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