An expert panel has endorsed voluntary assisted dying laws proposed in Tasmania as having among the “most rigorous” safeguards in the world, as department heads estimate it could cost more than $2 million a year to administer.
- Tasmania’s Parliament will debate voluntary assisted dying laws when MPs return next week
- An expert panel has compared Tasmania’s proposed laws with what is already operational interstate and overseas
- The laws are expected to cost $2.4 million a year to administer
Tasmanian Premier Peter Gutwein asked the University of Tasmania to review independent MLC Mike Gaffney’s Bill after a majority of MPs in both chambers of parliament expressed support for the intent of the legislation last year.
The review — publicly released late on Monday — was not aimed at determining whether the laws should pass, but compared what was proposed in Tasmania with what was already operational in other states and overseas.
“The Tasmanian VAD Bill has numerous provisions to protect individuals and to ensure that access is limited to people who are medically eligible and are acting voluntarily and free from coercion,” the four-person panel wrote.
“Indeed, the process proposed in the Tasmanian VAD Bill for requesting, assessing eligibility for and accessing VAD, and the safeguards built into this process, are among the most rigorous in the world.”
However, the review made five suggested amendments:
- Replace the fifth and final eligibility assessment with a consent check
- Clarify what was expected of facilities like religious aged care homes that did not want to participate in allowing access to VAD
- Provide legislative protections against professional discrimination for health practitioners
- Allow health practitioners to choose whether they were listed on a register
- Make it obligatory for health practitioners who do not want to provide VAD to refer patients to someone who will
Mr Gaffney described the panel’s report as “fair”.
“I’ll be keen to see how the government and House of Assembly MPs use this information to finalise deliberations, but I think it’s a just report and I’m fine with it,” Mr Gaffney said.
“I haven’t had a lot of time to go through it in detail yet and I’ll be doing that in the next three or four days.”
Mr Gaffney’s Bill will be debated soon after Parliament returns next week.
Laws to cost $2.4m annually
Mr Gutwein released department heads’ response to the legislation alongside the UTAS review findings on Monday.
The report, which encompassed views from the Department of Communities, Health, Justice and Police, Fire and Emergency Management, estimated the laws would cost $2.4 million a year to administer once fully operational from 2023.
“These costs are a ‘best endeavours’ estimate only, noting that the Bill will need to be finalised and implementation issues worked through before final costs can be known,” that report said.
The heads of agency also listed about 70 drafting issues with the Bill, as well as proposed solutions.
In a statement, conservative Liberal MP Michael Ferguson said the departments’ review vindicated his opposition to the laws.
“I understand that there are strong opinions in the community on this issue,” Mr Ferguson said.
Mr Gaffney said there were elements in the heads of agency report that were “wrong, but we will clear them up”.
He noted that the legislation was drafted with the Office of Parliamentary Counsel.
“Nothing there is insurmountable, but the really important thing is that members have indicated and the community has indicated they want this legislation, therefore there are issues that need to be worked through,” Mr Gaffney said.
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