Tasmanian MPs vote down euthanasia bill

Despite passionate support from some Tasmanian MPs, a bid to legalise voluntary euthanasia has failed in the state’s lower house.


Parliamentarians spent hours outlining reasons for and against the legislation with a conscience vote late on Wednesday night defeating the move.

The final count was eight in favour and 16 against.

Liberal premier Will Hodgman was one of those to oppose the bill but insisted members of his party voted with their heart, and indeed one – Nic Street – was among the ayes.

“It is a very confronting and challenging issue and I have no fear in saying that I am personally very confronted by it and very conflicted,” Mr Hodgman said.

“We are all being asked, in fact challenged, by some people in this place to make a decision on this bill and I will: I can’t support it.

“It contains significant shortcomings, (which) emphasise the difficulty in constructing a framework to safely provide for voluntary assisted dying.”

Opposition Labor MP Lara Giddings and state Greens leader Cassy O’Connor jointly authored the Voluntary Assisted Dying Bill, with the latter using the death of her father as an example.

Shane O’Connor, 78, a former state press gallery journalist, died in early May from melanoma.

“I thanked him in that very brief window of hospital days before he was sedated into pharmacological oblivion,” Ms O’Connor said.

While grateful for the chance to say goodbye she said her dad’s final days could have been different if he had the option to end his life.

“I don’t know what dad would have said if given the choice but he wasn’t asked.”

The bill had proposed an avenue for Tasmanians with an eligible medical condition, who are judged competent, access to a lethal drug to end their life.

Health Minister Michael Ferguson said it would leave vulnerable people exposed to exploitation and remove protections safeguarding the sanctity of life.

“This is in fact a dangerous bill that will in fact create a different group of cruel tragedies,” he said.

“We’ve said every suicide is too many yet before us is a bill that would sanction suicide.”

Former Tasmanian premier Ms Giddings stressed the proposed law would act as a last resort for people suffering intolerable pain.

“You can only access this pathway when all other care and treatment options have been exhausted,” she said.

In many cases palliative care options were failing patients, who were being subjected to “state-sanctioned torture” that prevented them from ending their lives with dignity, she added.

Three of Ms Giddings’ Labor colleagues voted against the bill.

Senior Liberal Rene Hidding said the proposed legislation was fundamentally flawed.

“You might shoot dogs and horses but you can’t treat humans like they are suffering animals,” he said.

Parliaments in NSW and Victoria recently considered similar legislation amid growing public support for euthanasia rights.

Outside Tasmania’s parliament, people holding banners such as ‘My life, my choice’ rallied in support of legalising euthanasia.

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