Cancer survivor Mat Burke says he was emotional as he watched a live-stream of Tasmania's House of Assembly passing a bill to legalise voluntary assisted dying on Thursday night.
While the amended legislation still has to be approved by the Legislative Council, for the 47-year-old Carrick man, the moment signified "peace of mind" - something he'd been searching for since he was first diagnosed with stage four nasopharyngeal cancer in October 2019.
"It is the peace of mind of knowing that there's not unnecessary suffering," Mr Burke said. "Because even when I was up on the cancer ward on a dozen drugs ... it did me no favours."
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"My mind was still clear enough and I knew that it was a bad situation."
If Mr Burke's cancer comes back, which he's been told is always a possibility, it would be neither treatable nor operable.
"So it's not going to be pleasant," he said.
When Mr Burke talks about Mike Gaffney, the independent Mersey MLC who introduced the bill in the Legislative Council last year, he lights up. "I'm so thankful for Mike Gaffney," he said. "Simple as that."
Mr Gaffney, a teacher by trade and a former Latrobe mayor, was there in the lower house this week to bear witness to his bill being debated and ultimately voted on.
It came after the laws received unanimous support in the Legislative Council when it came to a vote there in November.
"[In] the upper house, I was so pleased that we did so well and with this one it was more relief and excitement that it got through," Mr Gaffney said of the bill's passage through the House of Assembly.
"It was a special feeling and there was a good feeling in the house ... itself. I think that all of the people there who supported the bill felt that that was what the parliament was about.
"This is probably the biggest thing in my career. I always thought I might have been remembered as a decent mayor or a good teacher. And now I think I'll probably be remembered as the guy who brought the VAD bill."
Under the legislation, a person would be eligible to access voluntary assisted dying if they were aged 18 or over, met residency requirements, had decision-making capacity, were acting voluntarily and were suffering intolerably from a relevant medical condition.
Mr Gaffney said he was confident the amended bill would pass the upper house.
"The will of the upper house has always been supportive of this," he said. "And now that the bill has addressed some of the concerns from the people from the lower house, the representatives down there, I think it's added to it."
The Legislative Council next sits on Tuesday, March 23 and it's likely the amended bill will be debated then.
Speaking to the media yesterday, Premier Peter Gutwein, who voted in favour of the bill in the lower house, said the issue of VAD was "challenging" but one that he believed was "broadly supported by the community".
"I think [the bill has] been strengthened in some areas," he said.
"It'll now go back to the upper house and they will consider it. And I would hope that in that consideration that they would see fit to pass the amendments that were made in the lower house."
In a statement released yesterday, Archbishop of Hobart Julian Porteous said VAD could "never be the answer of a compassionate society".
"Rather the answer is the provision of better palliative care for all Tasmanians which requires significant additional funding to improve and expand palliative care in Tasmania," he said.
The archbishop pledged to work with the state government and Catholic health and aged care organisations to bolster palliative care offerings in Tasmania.
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