October 2020 Newsletter
- FROM THE PRESIDENT - HILDE NILSSON
- THE CAMPAIGN NOW CHANGES - ROBYN MAGGS
- FROM MIKE GAFFNEY - ARCHITECT AND NAVIGATOR OF THE VAD BILL
- IT'S OUR TIME TASMANIA - JACQUI AND NATALIE GRAY
- GET ON WITH IT - PASS THE VOLUNTARY ASSISTED DYING LAW IN 2020! - MARGARET SING
- CALL TO ACTION
- WE CAN HELP - OUR CONTACT DETAILS AND RESOURCES
- YOU CAN HELP – DONATIONS
- AND SOME FINAL WORDS TO GALVANISE OUR THINKING
We urge you to read the newsletter carefully. History is in the making, and we are all part of it!
FROM THE PRESIDENT - HILDE NILSSON
The EOLC(VAD) Bill has reached an important milestone in that it has progressed to the committee stage, where amendments get discussed. The previous three Bills did not get that far. The first debate in committee was held on October 13. Listening to most of those speeches I became somewhat concerned at the time taken by some MLCs to voice their opinions on the various issues. Thus the debate did not progress as quickly as it might have. It will therefore be continued on October 27, which is the last Private Members’ day for this year. It is vital that the process will be concluded and that the Bill will be passed in the Upper House by the end of this month. A number of amendments were, and will be, moved and some have, or will be, passed. Some of these amendments significantly detract from the Bill by putting unnecessary obstacles in the way of people requesting VAD, claiming they make the Bill safer, which they do not. I am reasonably hopeful that a bill will be passed in the Upper House, but it won’t be THE Bill that we had hoped for, and there is a risk that the Bill will not get to the Lower House this year.
We need to put maximum effort into impressing on the members of the Upper House before October 27 not just general support for VAD, but that we want this Bill passed without delay. We will be in touch as the Bill progresses.
Thank you for your support.
Apology to Pamille Berg OA who contributed two items to the September Newsletter and whose name was incorrectly spelt. The corrections have been made on the DwD Tas website version of the newsletter.
Palliative Care Tasmania Meeting Notice. Congratulations to all those who noticed that although the recent Palliative Care Tasmania meeting notice was on our Dying with Dignity Tasmania letter head, it was indeed an invitation from Palliative Care Tasmania, of which Dying with Dignity Tas is a fully paid up member. We strongly support palliative care in Tasmania.
THE CAMPAIGN NOW CHANGES - ROBYN MAGGS
The End of Life Choices (Voluntary Assisted Dying) Bill 2020 came from the passionate belief of many people that those who are dying with intolerable suffering, when their palliative care is no longer effective, should be given the gift of a compassionate death. The majority of our Tasmanian MPs believe in this compassionate legislation. They have accepted the fact that the vast majority of Tasmanians want this legislation passed. But we are now at the crucial stage of our campaign, where we are not only asking for the legislation to be passed, but that it should be the best legislation for Tasmania that is possible. Legislation that protects the vulnerable; that has at its core the principles of being voluntary and free from coercion; that is, above all, patient-centric. The risk is that recent, and proposed, amendments from Upper House MPs may defeat the purpose and integrity of the Bill. The other aspect of the present stage of the campaign is the need for no delays that will stop this legislation being passed by the end of this year – it is, after all, a 2020 Bill!
Our focus now needs to be on writing letters and articles to the media and to MPs in both the Upper and Lower Houses, and ringing radio stations. And whenever possible meeting them face to face. We need to fine-tune our focus in relation to the questionable amendments that are being voted on. The critical ones at present are those relating to Telehealth, nurses, the "gag clause" and the conscientious objection for entities exception (residential care providers). We should also be emphasising the need to keep this legislation moving. If you could take on one of these specific amendments, rather than all of them, that would be a great help.
Mike Gaffney’s Bill requires the first request for the VAD option to be a face to face one, but if it is necessary and is acceptable to the doctor involved, then any others can be done through the distance of Telehealth. This gives equitable access across our State. It is difficult to believe that an amendment would require either all, or particularly the final request, to be face to face. To expect this of a person dying with intolerable suffering seems callous. This amendment cannot be accepted.
Mike Gaffney’s Bill allows nurses to administer the VAD medication to the person accessing VAD. The amendment wants nurses to be completely cut out of the process. In Tasmania, the option of a community nurse being involved solves the difficulty of remote and regional areas possibly not having the doctor available. Some areas don’t have the luxury of a permanent GP. Some have locums coming and going, with gaps in between. Even in inner suburbs, the participating doctor may be away or be unwell, or can’t leave an already overloaded practice to be there for the individual. Nurses are not only qualified (and would have had to do the VAD training), but are most likely to have already been involved with the individual, possibly through their palliative care. And if we are to be truly compassionate, we should acknowledge that the person and their family may prefer a nurse with whom they have already established a strong personal connection. This amendment cannot be accepted.
Mike Gaffney’s Bill allows doctors to tell their patients about the existence of VAD as an option for them when discussing their end of life choices. It also says that, in the unlikely instance that they are not already receiving palliative care, they must be told how palliative care can be accessed. Initially, those opposing this section of the Bill wanted a “gag order” – as it has been described in Victoria. This means the doctor is not allowed to tell the person that they may have a VAD option unless the person has raised that topic with their doctor first. This obviously disadvantages many, such as the person who does not know about VAD, those where English is not their first language, or those who are less educated. In my own clinical practice, there would have been hundreds of times that I rang the GP on the person’s behalf, to ask if they could raise a particular issue with them. It may have been because the person was too embarrassed about the particular topic, or they may have suffered from a severe Social Anxiety Disorder, or the communication difficulties of a Central Auditory Processing Disorder. We all assume that our GP will tell us what they know about all options that are available to us, whatever we are seeing them for. To think our GPs would be “gagged” in this critical area, defies belief. Unless there are major changes to this amendment, it should not be accepted.
Mike Gaffney’s Bill allows any individual, on conscientious or any other grounds, to refuse to be involved in any aspect of VAD. The amendment would allow all “entities”, residential care providers, to completely opt out of the VAD process. This would mean refusing to even allow an initial assessment when one of their residents wishes to access VAD. It would mean that the dying person, who at that stage is likely to be suffering intolerably, and who may have made that place their home for many years, will have to find another organisation to be moved to. Most of these organisations have a religious affiliation. Yet the majority of those who identify as Christian support VAD, so there would still be doctors and nurses associated with, or working within these entities, who would willingly take on the required VAD roles. This amendment cannot be accepted.
These amendments in isolation may not initially appear to have a great impact. However, when taken as a whole, they will severely inhibit a person’s ability to engage with a compassionate VAD process. With the best of intentions, politicians who believe their amendments will improve the Bill, may actually achieve the opposite, making it a more difficult and less compassionate Bill than it needs to be. Let’s encourage our MPs to use their conscience vote to continue making this Bill patient centric.
Vice President DWDTas
FROM MIKE GAFFNEY - ARCHITECT AND NAVIGATOR OF THE VAD BILL
In devising a strategic pathway for any legislation, one must be mindful of when best to introduce and debate Bills in Parliament. Some twelve months ago with support of DWDTas the process regarding the current 4th attempt for a legal VAD framework for Tasmanians started in earnest. Drafting of the Bill, presenting state-wide information sessions, extensive consultation, tremendous community feedback, re-drafting of the Bill, a huge yourchoicetas petition, pamphlet dropping and marketing campaign, wide-reaching and varied media approaches, tabling of individual stories and submissions, tabling of the Private Members EOLC(VAD)Bill, second reading speeches and debate on the floor house were all planned (albeit somewhat differently than previously envisaged) due to COVID.
However, now we presently find ourselves in debate in the Upper House and I am pleased to be able to inform everyone that it looks as though a decision by the Legislative Council regarding the VAD Bill will be made by the end of this month.
As you are aware last week on Tuesday 13th we covered 14 clauses of the 144 clauses in the Bill. It is also fair to say that many of the issues and amendments debated were ones that were always going to take longer to finalise. Unfortunately, only Tuesday is designated as a private members day with Wednesday and Thursday as Government Days.
You can view the committee proceedings here through the link below. Choose the segments on the right hand side of the video window, starting at 1416.
However, last Wednesday 14th (the day following the debate) I informed Hon. Members that the Legislative Council would continue the VAD debate when we resit on Tuesday 27th starting at 9.00am until 10.00pm – as per usual there would be 30 minutes set aside for Special Interest Speeches at the beginning of the day and 30 minutes for question time after lunch and 2 meal breaks throughout the day.
This is in itself is unusual (starting before 11.00am) however Members were accepting. I then suggested (at that time) we could also sit on Friday 30th (which is definitely unheard of) - however I was informed that PAC (Public Accounts Committee) already had commitments on Friday.
I had a discussion with the Chair of the Committee and some 24 hours later was informed by the Hon Ivan Dean, Member for Windermere and Chair of PAC, that he had deferred the PAC hearings thus making it available for a continuation of the EOLC(VAD) Bill debate. Many thanks to the Chair and Members of the PAC committee.
Therefore, it is likely, but conditional on the “Will of the House” on Thursday evening, the Legislative Council will be continuing its sitting week on Friday 30th at 9.00am with no adjournment time scheduled. Once a decision is made in the Legislative Council at the conclusion of the sitting week – the Bill will either cease to exist or hopefully will be forwarded to the Lower House for consideration.
The next sitting day for the House of Assembly is Tuesday 10th of November. The House of Assembly have four (4) more sitting weeks in the year which includes both the Budget and one week scheduled for Estimates.
Hopefully, this update will bring you up to speed on what is happening and once again I can only thank everyone for their support and efforts. 😊
IT'S OUR TIME TASMANIA - JACQUI AND NATALIE GRAY
Your Choice Tas - “We cannot direct the wind, but we can adjust the sails”
Tuesday 13 October 2020 - What a momentous occasion indeed! Being present in the chamber and watching firsthand the first 13 clauses being debated during the committee stage of the Upper House. Whilst there was undeniably disappointment in some of the amendments supported, we must stay strong, focussed, and positive on that end goal – getting a bill to pass down to the lower house.
Over the past two weeks we have erected 100 extra-large corflute signs around Tasmania on private properties. An order of 1000 car bumper stickers has also been placed, with the below text:
If you would like to order one, please send us an email: email@example.com. We have also published the ‘Voices of our community’ videos sharing firsthand personal experiences of six Tasmanians and why VAD should be legalised. We are working on loads of future opportunities and will update you all in due course.
HOW CAN YOU HELP?
With the next sitting to resume on Tuesday 27 October, it is imperative, if you have not already contacted our MP’s, to do so now. This is your last opportunity (for the upper house). Address concerns they have raised, share your experience or opinion, and ensure your voice is heard. We have created an email template as a guide which you can access here: http://www.doingitfordisey.com.au/blog/writing-to-your-mp/
JOIN THE JOURNEY
You can follow our journey and keep up to date on involvement opportunities as the parliamentary process evolves through either of these options.
CHRISTIANS SUPPORTING CHOICE
We know that a majority of Christians support voluntary assisted dying laws in Australia, but we want some black and white statistics. If you’re of Christian faith and support VAD please consider adding your name to this list in order to better understand and analyse how many Tasmanian Christians support compassionate laws https://christiansforvad.org.au/add-your-name/
Are you a doctor, nurse, paramedic, psychologist, pharmacist, physio, or other allied health professional? Are you a social worker or aged care worker? Please add your name to this national list of health professionals who support voluntary assisted dying laws. You can choose not to have your name published. This data will help confirm statistics for Tasmanian health professionals who support VAD.
RESPOND TO MEDIA ARTICLES
Send a letter to the editor, write your own talking point, contact your regional newspapers and talk to friends. Keep the VAD conversation alive.
The loss is immeasurable, but so is the love left behind. And without doubt, love and loss is our strongest driving force.
Your Life. Your Right. Your Choice.
Jacqui & Nat Gray
Your Choice TAS
GET ON WITH IT - PASS THE VOLUNTARY ASSISTED DYING LAW IN 2020!
That’s the most important message right now for members of the Tasmanian Parliament, especially in the House of Assembly.
We’re nearly there! Help the final run home before the end of 2020! The end of the very long road to a legal voluntary assisted dying choice in Tasmania is in sight.
In any contact you make with the Government and House of Assembly members urge them to respect the wishes of the vast majority of Tasmanians and get on with the debate and vote on the voluntary assisted dying Bill as soon as it’s passed in the Legislative Council, and before the end of 2020. It can be done, and Tasmanians need it and deserve it, without more delay. Now it’s time for the lower house to give it priority and follow the lead of the upper house.
We are hopeful that Mike Gaffney’s End of Life Choices (Voluntary Assisted Dying) Bill will be passed by the Legislative Council. It now looks as though this will be before the end of October, but conditional on the “Will of the House” on Thursday evening, the Legislative Council will be continuing its sitting week on Friday 30 October to get it done. We congratulate and thank Mike Gaffney for his tremendous efforts to get this done and for the Legislative Councillors making it possible. The majority of them have shown in their speeches that they understand why people with intolerable end of life suffering need the law and have responded with compassion for them and respect for people to have that choice within a carefully regulated, safeguarded system.
Tasmanians have waited long enough. The implementation period will be 18 months after the Bill is passed. Delaying it till next year will mean even more unnecessary suffering or more desperate measures by the people who need it.
You can contact MPs on this (and other issues about the legislation) by email, hand-writing, ringing their offices to ask for your views to be passed on, post on social media, ask for meetings, ring or SMS ABC Mornings or other programs like that - and talk about it and encourage others to do the same. If you only have time to do it for one or a few MPs, start with the Premier and then MPs for your electorate.
You’ll find names and contact details on the Parliament website –
https://www.parliament.tas.gov.au/ha/halists.pdf and https://www.parliament.tas.gov.au/lc/LCLists.pdf
Tasmania can become the 18th jurisdiction in the world with such a law. VAD laws have proven to be needed, safe, responsible, and valued laws. The vast majority of Tasmanians support a legal VAD choice. The law will allow those of us with intolerable end of life suffering to get our doctors’ help to end that suffering and have the best death we can in very difficult circumstances – how, when, where and with whom we want that to be. It’s ‘voluntary’ – it is based on respect for our end of life choices – whatever they may be – according to our own beliefs, values, priorities, and circumstances. Get on with it!
CALL TO ACTION
We have made an effort to meet personally and provide information to all Legislative Council MPs, but with time running out to reach them all before the final Upper House vote, we are asking for help from all DwDTas members. Could you email each of the following MPs and ask them to support a Yes vote for the End-Of-Life Choices (Voluntary Assisted Dying) Bill 2020? Their email addresses are below.
Leonie Hiscutt firstname.lastname@example.org
Rosemary Armitage email@example.com
Tania Rattray firstname.lastname@example.org
Ivan Dean email@example.com
WE CAN HELP - CONTACT DETAILS AND RESOURCES
Our DwD Tas website - dwdtas.org.au - and our Facebook page - Dying with Dignity Tasmania - will keep you up to date! You can also email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
PLEASE LET US KNOW IF YOU WOULD LIKE A DWD CAR STICKER, OR YOU COULD SHARE SOME WITH YOUR FRIENDS
Full contact details of Tasmanian members of parliament can be accessed via these links:
https://www.parliament.tas.gov.au/ha/halists.pdf and https://www.parliament.tas.gov.au/lc/LCLists.pdf
Emails to the Editors of local newspapers can be sent to:
A letter writing guide is available on request.
YOU CAN HELP - DONATIONS
More help needed please!
We are at an unprecedented and important phase in the End of Life Choices (Voluntary Assisted Dying) 2020 Bill. We must all do our best to contact our Politicians to let them know how many Tasmanians support this Bill and that we do not want changes that render it ineffective. DWDT and Your Choice Tasmania have been working hard on this, but we need your help to further fund our ongoing campaign. Would you please consider donating to Dying with Dignity Tasmania? Any amount that you could afford would be greatly appreciated.
We prefer payments to be made by direct deposit. Our bank details are:
Please include your name as a reference and email us at email@example.com so we know where to send your receipt.
- Dying with Dignity Tas Inc
- CBA, BSB 067-028
- Account 10053477
Cheque payments may be made by mailing your payment to:
- Dying with Dignity, PO Box 1022, SANDY BAY, TAS 7006
AND SOME FINAL WORDS TO GALVANISE OUR THINKING
You will be aware that in their recent general election, New Zealanders were also able to vote in a referendum to accept VAD. Although their End of Life Choices Act 2019 had already been passed, 50% of voters needed to endorse the decision. Supporters are optimistic, but the outcome is not yet clear.
Miles Williams – Cardiologist & general physician - has laid a formal complaint about the New Zealand Medical Association's 'deceptive and misleading' rejection of the right for terminally ill people to end their lives.
Miles says the End of Life Choice movement can be summarised as follows:
1) This is not a life and death issue. It is a dying and death issue.
2) This is not an Act that gives doctors the right to take away life. It is an Act that gives doctors the right to assist dying people to die.
3) This is not a movement initiated by doctors or governments. This is a global movement instigated by ordinary people facing personal tragedy.
4) This is not experimental legislation. This is legislation similar (and stricter) to that available to millions of people around the world (and no country with this legislation has ever seen fit to reverse it).
5) There is no evidence of deterioration in doctor patient relationships (in fact they are enhanced), there is no evidence that the vulnerable or disabled are at risk, there is no evidence of coercion and there is no evidence of normalisation of suicide or increase in suicide rates.
The truly vulnerable are those who are truly dying with unbearable suffering and who are refused the help that they request on the grounds that their suffering is necessary and will end at the appointed time.
Copyright DWDTasmania Inc. 2020