The subject of voluntary assisted dying is an emotional one. For obvious reasons. But it need not frighten people, nor confuse them.
In Tasmania, we are about to see yet another assisted dying bill introduced in the State Parliament. Independent Mersey MLC Mike Gaffney has travelled all around the state, holding forums and gauging people's views on his draft legislation. He has been upfront and considerate of all viewpoints, whether they accord with his own or not.
However, Mr Gaffney's bill has been called into question by faith leaders and religious groups, for whom voluntary assisted dying is an affront to their beliefs. And that's a position they're absolutely entitled to have. What shouldn't be tolerated, though, are the fear-mongering tactics employed by organisations like the Australian Christian Lobby. These appear designed to muddy the waters of the debate.
The ACL has issued a number of public statements on Mr Gaffney's bill, at one point describing it as being "founded on ... hopelessness and fear" and having requirements that will be "relaxed". But it would be difficult to argue that Mr Gaffney hasn't put together the most comprehensive assisted dying bill Tasmania has seen. One can't deny that it's been meticulously assembled.
There are eligibility criteria for people seeking to avail themselves of the laws. A person must have been born in Tasmania or been a resident of the state for at least 12 consecutive months, they must be over the age of 18, they must be suffering intolerably from a relevant medical condition and have adequate decision-making capacity.
Moreover, there would be a strict, multi-layered assessment process for each assisted dying request and medical practitioners would have the right to deny these on grounds of conscientious objection. Penalties of up to five years' jail would exist for those who contravened the act.
It's hard to see laws such as these leading to an open slather situation. The ACL has just as much of a right as anyone to voice their opinions on matters of public policy. Yet when it comes to an issue as sensitive as voluntary assisted dying, facts must always trump fear.
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