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November 2020 Newsletter


PASS THE BILL - NO CHANGES
 

FROM THE PRESIDENT - HILDE NILSSON
The End of Life Choices (VAD) Bill has conquered another hurdle. The vote after the second reading debate was a very convincing 17 for and  7 against, with the Speaker, Sue Hickey, making a little speech in support of the Bill, a wonderful result indeed. The hard work of Mike Gaffney and his team, of Jacqui and Nat Gray, our DwD committee and so many others who have contributed by  writing letters  etc have all played a part in making Tasmania a place where people facing the end of their lives can have peace of mind, knowing they can have a choice in how they die. However, we can’t rest on our laurels just yet. There is still the third reading debate to go early next March, after the review panel from the University has reported to the Government, at the end of February. While we have every reason to believe that the Bill will pass, we are concerned that amendments might be passed which will diminish the Bill. We will send another newsletter early next year with suggestions for how you can help, plus an update on progress.
I wish everyone a peaceful and enjoyable Christmas and a happy and healthy 2021. Thank you all for your support!

Hilde

HILDE'S TAHPC HONOUR  

Lifetime Membership Awarded 

(From Tasmanian Association for Hospice and Palliative Care (TAHPC) Newsletter, December 2020)
At the 2020 AGM the Board of Directors awarded PCT's first Lifetime Membership to Hilde Nilsson.

Hilde became a member of the Tasmanian Association for Hospice and Palliative Care (TAHPC) – the precursor to Palliative Care Tasmania over 20 years ago. As a member of TAHPC and PCT she has volunteered all around the State, delivering end-of-life care and advance care planning education to a lot of different community groups. In fact, when PCT was in danger of not being re-funded a few years ago and had to let staff go, Hilde stepped in and helped PCT continue delivering  our community education.
 
Hilde has been a long term, active member of our organisation. She is passionate in her support and advocacy for Tasmanians accessing effective palliative and end-of-life care. Whenever we have needed her, Hilde has always been ready and able to help.  She has not only volunteered her time helping us deliver community education, but also been a Director of our board, and befriended and supported many of our staff.

The Board of PCT could not think of a more worthy recipient to recognise for our first ever Lifetime Membership.
Congratulations Hilde from everyone in DwDTas on receiving Palliative Care Tasmania's first Lifetime Membership Award for all your years of working to support those end-of-life areas - one of the many hats you wear. Once the battle for VAD is over (and won!) you'll be the perfect warrior to lead us into battle for the many needs in the palliative care area. Your award confirms and highlights that VAD sits appropriately and comfortably alongside palliative care within the range of supports available to terminally ill Tasmanians.

 
33 OF THE 40 TASMANIAN PARLIAMENTARIANS HAVE VOTED IN FAVOUR - A VERY HEALTHY 82.5% - MIKE GAFFNEY

Hi, what a wonderful result last Friday with a positive vote of 17 -7 in the House of Assembly. The Hon Sue Hickey however made it very clear in closing the debate that she favoured the legislation so in reality it was 18 - 7 in favour of the principle of the legislation. Thus 33 of the 40 Tasmanian Parliamentarians have voted in favour - a very healthy 82.5%
There were many, many good speeches (in both Chambers) and whilst some I found a bit .... mmm .... baffling, by and large there was a really good feel in the Chamber last week and as was stated to me by an experienced Parliament Staffer, he considered it the best debate that has occurred in the Lower House in the four attempts of VAD Legislation. Indeed, it was respectful, thoughtful and varied.
I felt Minister for Health Sarah Courtney's carriage of the Bill was first class and she will definitely not be intimidated by a couple of her Ministerial Colleagues who are not in favour of VAD and was a very good choice to carry the Bill. I felt that Deputy Premier Jeremy Rockliff's speech was excellent; Jeremy acknowledged that he had not voted for any of the 3 previous Bills. So, I thought this speech may be of interest to those who have not heard any or many of the Lower House contributions - it can be found in Hansard or on Jeremy's face book page.
I don’t imagine there will be a great deal of media coverage between now and the March sitting of the HA where the Bill is the 1st order of the business of the Day. By that time, the report from the University will have been published and out for scrutiny, and that may generate some media coverage. No doubt many of us will keep an eye on things for people and forward appropriate suggestions until the Bill is finalised in Tasmania.
Whilst, the Upper House sits this week and GBE's scrutiny next week, I will take this opportunity to wish everyone an enjoyable and relaxed festive season. I cannot express my gratitude enough to all of those within the DWDTAS committee and all of those who have assisted in some way shape or form with the passing of the legislation. The work undertaken by Jac and Nat Gray (Your Choice Tas) and to my many Australian and International friends it really has been a wonderful Journey.
Whilst none of us will be fully at ease until the Bill passes in March, we will always be keeping our eye on the ball and in the New Year will seek to provide extra suggestions with what we can do to achieve the final goal!
Take care and thanks one and all for your interest, positivity, and support.

Cheers, Mike  



NEXT STEP ACHIEVED - ROBYN MAGGS
I opted to stay home alone, glued to the House of Assembly webcasts, so that I could turn up the volume and cheer, cry, boo and hiss as the speeches moved me. In the end Mike Gaffney’s End-Of-Life Choices (Voluntary Assisted Dying) Bill 2020 was voted into the Committee stage by 17 votes to 7. Really 18 to 7 as the Speaker, Sue Hickey, doesn’t get to vote, but we know she supports it, and did so from the Chair. If the vote had been a tie, then she could have voted. It is good to finally know who opposes the Bill. Their speeches were noticeable for no sign of compassion or concern for those who need this legislation. The Committee stage begins in March, by which time the University of Tasmania review, that the Premier, Peter Gutwein, decided to have, will have concluded. These are my personal impressions of the speeches I heard. Brief highlights and lowlights! They don’t pretend to be objective. Hansard won’t be available until next week.
Robyn Maggs
Vice President DwDTas

Sarah Courtney. Liberal and Minister for Health. Yes. Sarah courageously took carriage of the Bill. Mike Gaffney’s request of the Premier that a senior Member do so, was important. She is both a Government Member and the Minister for Health. It was a special moment when she presented the Bill to the House. The part of her speech that most impressed me, after so much negative concern about the risks in the Bill for “the vulnerable”, was pointing out that we needed to remember that the most vulnerable were those who would access the VAD process. And that their access mustn’t be impeded.
Rebecca White. Labor Leader. Yes. Rebecca’s speech was based on a number of moving stories from people, or their family members, who had experienced, or are experiencing, the dreadful situations of life without the option of voluntary assisted dying. She included an emotional personal story.
Peter Gutwein. Liberal. Premier. Yes. Peter is the first Liberal Premier to support voluntary assisted dying. He emphasised his belief in freedom of choice and personal responsibility. He said that the previous three Bills over the years, had not had sufficiently strong protections. He explained why he sent the Bill for a University of Tasmania panel to review. He said he would move an amendment to make sure that the commencement of the Bill would not be delayed by his current timeframe.
Michelle O’Byrne. Labor. Yes. A highlight of Michelle’s speech was how she took on the conspiracy theories and misconceptions of those who oppose the Bill for religious reasons and explained why voluntary assisted dying is not against the beliefs of those of faith or Christians.
Cassie O’Connor. Greens. Yes. Cassie moved us with her personal stories, especially about her mother. She had me in tears. She expressed appreciation for the courage it took for Sarah Courtney to take on carriage of the Bill and admired Mike Gaffney’s collaborative approach.
Elise Archer. Liberal and Attorney-General. No. A dry and legalistic address. Expressed various legal concerns. Problems with its interaction with the criminal code. Disrespectful phrases like “doctor assisted suicide” and “doctors shouldn’t kill people”. She pointed out that the Attorney-General “appoints the Commissioner”. Actually, an amendment in the Upper House added the Minister for Health to this decision about the head of the Commission.
David O’Byrne. Labor. Yes. Another emotional speech emphasizing why voluntary assisted dying is needed. You felt it when he repeated, several times, to those he spoke about, “We’ve heard you”.
Madeleine Ogilvie. Independent. No. Madeleine wasn’t far into her speech when I thought - HERE COMES THE ENTITIES AMENDMENT!  She said, "There will need to be amendments". "Conscientious objection rights need to be secured for people and places." She said, “After the University review the Bill will look quite different”. Like other opponents, she made it clear that the review was a godsend that she felt would result in negative findings.
Nic Street. Liberal. Yes. Nic is a long-time supporter of voluntary assisted dying and the only Liberal Member to vote for it the last time there was a Bill before Parliament. He emphasised that palliative care doesn’t always work. He said that doctors control the dying process now, and that the Bill puts the control back into the hands of the dying person. He also pointed out that when it comes to the person accessing the voluntary assisted dying process, “These are the most vulnerable people”.  Nic was positive about the review findings, saying that because of it, “we will have a better Bill”.
Shane Broad. Labor. Yes. Shane said he wasn’t so conflicted about this Bill, as he had been with his No vote in 2017. He said that this is a very different Bill, with adequate protections. He had been concerned that the 2017 Bill didn’t have neurodegenerative diseases and thanked Mike Gaffney for including them this time.  “With pragmatism and passion, Mike has made a difference.”
Guy Barnett. Liberal. No. I’m afraid that Guy wasn’t far into his speech when I jotted down, “I can’t believe this!” Says he strongly opposes the Bill. That such legislation has had a devastating effect on palliative care. That internationally such legislation has resulted in lives being ended without consent. That ninety percent of Tasmanians were not consulted, etc., etc.
Ella Haddad. Labor. Yes. Ella pointed out the important aspect of this legislation: that even for those who will not end up using it, it provides the comfort of an option that removes the fear of “a bad death” and enables them to make the best of the life they may have left. She had me in tears as she told the story of the lovely Trish, a member of our Dying with Dignity Tasmania committee, and the trauma of the police involvement with her family after her death.
Jeremy Rockliff. Liberal and Deputy Leader. Yes.  So inspirational and moving. Jeremy said that empathy was at the forefront of this Bill. He also noted that it was highly scrutinised, rigorous, best practice, had strict criteria, was legally good, and would have strict oversight through the Commission. He said he was impressed that Mike Gaffney carried out his consultation over the Bill in a very caring way.
Rosalie Woodruff. Greens. Yes. Another moving and very compassionate speech. Once again, the individual’s stories kept us focused on the basis for her support of this Bill. She spoke of all the people who have fought this battle for decades past and those who have helped get us to where we are today.
Roger Jaensch. Liberal. Yes. After not being impressed with Roger Jaensch in Estimates, I wrote, “There is a different man here today”. Very supportive, well-expressed and moving speech. He said that in his electorate he had been surprised by the amount of support from older, Christian, Liberal-voting individuals. He said there have been many cases of Huntington’s Disease in his electorate and thanked Mike Gaffney for including neurodegenerative diseases in his Bill. I won’t forget a powerful visual he gave us. He spoke of a book he hadn’t read, but whose cover he couldn’t forget. It had two figures, Death and a Surgeon and as they struggled over her, between them was a limp naked woman. He said that our focus has been on death and the medicos, when it is really about the person in between.
Alison Standen. Labor. Yes. While everyone was being "respectful" of the Premier's review decision, I liked Alison calling it out for what it was, "a delaying tactic". She believes that the panel’s findings won’t change anyone’s vote. She expressed her belief in this Bill: that it is strong, compassionate, well-researched, has sufficient safeguards, and that there has been wide consultation. She read a perceptive letter from Bill Godfrey which demolished the myth of the “slippery slope”.
Mark Shelton. Liberal. In the middle.  Mark surprised me in wanting the Bill to go through to a second sitting. He raised an interesting young/old dichotomy, where he could envisage this process being appropriate for the elderly, but not for the young with their suicidal tendencies. He wants the parents to be made aware of their child's VAD choice, even if 18. There is actually already a relevant clause in the Bill, in terms of family members being informed about the process, but only if the person involved agrees. Says he's "totally in the middle", so hopefully can be given informative information and keep an open mind to learning more before the final vote next year.
Jennifer Houston. Labor. Yes. Jennifer read out the principles and objectives which comprise the first part of the Bill, as these were an important factor in her support. So were what she saw as sufficient safeguards. She acknowledged that palliative care does not work for everyone and emphasised that the voluntary assisted dying process is not suicide. I was empathising with Jennifer’s obvious nervousness in giving her speech, but ended up in tears with her when she told us about her Grandfather pleading with her to "leave me on the mountain".
Felix Ellis. Liberal. No. What a muddle! Wants to fix up the world first. Don't we all - but not first. Just bit by bit. And VAD is a compassionate and urgent bit of the fixing up. Gave wrongful death examples. Talked of the unintended consequences of euthanasia – that this legislation “would turn our backs on making life better in society” instead of first fixing elder abuse, coercion, physical assault, youth mental illness and suicide. Claims those negatively affected by this legislation would be older Australians, First Australians and the disabled. Said that the four people who accessed voluntary assisted dying under the Northern Territory legislation “were killed”.
Anita Dow. Labor. Yes.  Anita said that she had been a palliative care nurse. She read the Bill’s principles and objectives, on which her support was based. She pointed out that people don’t choose to have a terminal illness or a neurodegenerative disease, but that at the time of death choice is important. “The choice is not for doctors or politicians; it is for the dying.”
Michael Ferguson. Liberal. No. I wrote, “Beyond comment!”   "Bad law... an affront to suicidal youth...just a failure of treatment...public opinion is superficial/they’ve been manipulated into support...so-called safeguards... so-called VAD...intentional taking of life...mercy killing... physician assisted suicide...deeply flawed...and speakers didn't do what they should have done on a second reading and discuss the details of the operation of the Bill". So disrespectful.
Jen Butler. Labor. Yes. Jen described this as “an achingly humane Bill”. She said it is based on logic and sensitivity, provides autonomy and compassion, and contains good safeguards. She said that voluntary assisted dying has achieved community consensus. She said that for 4% of people, palliative care can’t help them, but that access to voluntary assisted dying “will prolong life rather than end it prematurely”. She said relatives and friends could say goodbye, resulting in less traumatic grief.
Jacquie Petrusma. Liberal. No. I wrote “Just when I wondered whether any speech could be worse than Ferguson’s, along comes Jacquie!”  Double the unpleasantness of Michael Ferguson’s speech. Add “a threat to the vulnerable” and “consider doing no harm versus taking a life” and “assisted suicide will work against palliative care” and “this opens the door to elder abuse”. She insisted that these days there is no such thing as a bad death, and that one would only occur "when palliative care is unavailable or rejected."
John Tucker. Liberal. No. Gross! "Cheaper to kill a patient than to provide palliative care"!!  So, the Bill will demolish palliative care on economic grounds.  “Euthanasia doesn’t end pain, it ends life.” This Bill is just “a request to be killed by another.” He thinks terminal sedation is appropriate.


THE UNIVERSITY OF TASMANIA’S INDEPENDENT REVIEW - MARGARET SING

Now for the final run home!
Before the final debate and vote on the End of Life Choices (Voluntary Assisted Dying) Bill, the Government and House of Assembly MPs will receive a report from an independent review of the Bill by a panel at the University of Tasmania.  The report is to be provided by 17 February 2021 before the debate when Parliament resumes in late February/early March.
Written submissions have been called for by 4 January 2021.  So, the DwDTas work continues to ensure ours is as comprehensive as possible! 
We have no doubt the review will find that the EOLC (VAD) Bill provides an effective systematic legal framework for VAD in Tasmania that will prevent feared risks and abuses to so-called “vulnerable people”.  We know how much research and consideration of the evidence has gone into the Bill – DwDTas provided a lot of it, including details of other existing legislation, the thorough scrutiny of those laws and the consistent and repeated findings of multiple, thorough reviews and inquiries in Australia and elsewhere, particularly Canada. When he moved the EOLC (VAD) Bill in Parliament, Mike Gaffney also tabled the DwDTas paper “Voluntary Assisted Dying – Overview of the Current Situation – Aug 20” (included in recent newsletter), and detailed data about the outcomes of different laws that I had prepared.  The overview paper has been updated (eg to add the information about the progress of the EOLC (VAD) Bill, NZ and Queensland progress) and the data and analysis is being updated. This and other material will be made available to the Utas review because the panel has a lot to do in a short time.
Only one member of the panel, Professor Margaret Otlowski (Pro Vice-Chancellor (Culture and Wellbeing), Professor of Law and Deputy Director of the Centre for Law and Genetics), has a background of academic research and publication about voluntary assisted dying.  Fortunately, that is a very distinguished and internationally respected background, and we are very pleased that she is a member.  Other panel members include the Chairperson, Professor Richard Eccleston, Professor of Political Science; Professor Fran McInerney, Professor of Dementia Studies and Education; and Associate Professor, Jenny Presser, Past Chair of RACGP Board Tasmania and Academic Lead, Bachelor of Medicine Bachelor of Surgery (MBBS). 
The terms of reference are broad and a lot of work will be required in a short time.  All of the information required is readily available and we will provide a lot of our research material to assist.  The panel is to provide a concise summary of the Bill and a comparison of the Bill to legislation and Bills about voluntary assisted dying, in other Australian states and overseas, “including but not limited to the processes allowed by the legislation, safeguards and protections for vulnerable people [undefined]”.  It is also to outline the historical development of VAD legislation in Australia; to give an outline of the historical development of VAD legislation in other Australian jurisdictions; to give a summary of relevant reports and an objective analysis of the safeguards put in place in other jurisdictions; to report on any interrelationship between the VAD Bill and existing palliative care and advance care directives in Tasmania; and to discuss the experience of other jurisdictions in implementing VAD legislation to identify matters that might need to be addressed or monitored should the legislation pass into law.
You can find full details of the terms of reference, panel members and submissions information at https://www.utas.edu.au/vad-review.
Margaret Sing
 

Tilly Diane Gray continues her parliamentary procedures training in the House of Assembly!

Covid-19 has complicated our year in many ways, but 2020 has ended on a high note for all those committed to achieving VAD as an end-of-life option for Tasmanians. One more step to go before we can really celebrate!
 
The paper DWDT newsletter was kindly printed by the office of Nic Street MP, Liberal Member for Franklin.
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