Tasmania on verge of euthanasia laws

Premier Peter Gutwein was among a handful of Liberals to support a voluntary assisted dying bill.
Premier Peter Gutwein was among a handful of Liberals to support a voluntary assisted dying bill.

Tasmania is almost certain to become the third Australian jurisdiction to legalise voluntary assisted dying after the legislation passed the state's lower house.

Members voted 16-6 in favour of the bill late on Thursday night after lengthy debate throughout the week.

To become law, the bill must be given a second green light by the upper house, where it was introduced and passed unanimously late last year.

Premier Peter Gutwein was among a handful of Liberals to support the bill in a conscience vote, which allowed all MPs to vote along personal preferences.

All nine Labor members voted for the legislation as did both Greens MPs.

It is the fourth time proposed euthanasia laws have come before Tasmania's parliament.

Similar laws exist in Western Australia and Victoria.

Mr Gutwein, who has voted against voluntary assisted dying in the past, said it had become "easier to say yes than no" as the debate progressed over the years.

Labor leader Rebecca White said it was a proud day for the state, while Greens leader Cassy O'Connor said it was a step to making Tasmania a kinder and more compassionate place.

Several amendments were made to the bill, including ensuring standards of access for regional and rural communities.

Another states that medical practitioners who conscientiously object to providing voluntary assisted dying must provide people seeking the procedure with contact details of the VAD Commission so they can gain information about access.

Medical practitioners will also be required to keep a "statement of reasons for decisions" to address concerns relating to judicial review.

Former health minister Michael Ferguson, one Liberal MP to vote against the bill, described the debate as at times unsatisfactory.

He said it was highly regrettable that a clause requiring all voluntary assisted dying procedures to be referred to the coroner was removed.

Primary Industries and Water Minister Guy Barnett said the bill had been rushed and lacked protections and safeguards for elderly people.

A University of Tasmania review of the legislation, undertaken before it reached the lower house, found it had some of the most rigorous safeguards in the world.

Under the proposed laws, people over 18 with an advanced, incurable, irreversible condition expected to cause death within six months can end their lives.

They must have decision-making capacity and be acting voluntarily and can opt out of the procedure at any time.

Australian Associated Press