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News Article

Thirteen fatal flaws in Tasmania’s death bill
Thursday, October 10, 2013


“A careful analysis of the Giddings-McKim Voluntary Assisted Dying Bill 2013 shows it contains at least 13 fatal flaws,” FamilyVoice Tasmania state officer Jim Collins said today.

  1. Suicide by drugs provided by a doctor under the bill is defined as “not suicide” – contrary to all dictionary definitions.  The bill  would thus negatively impact life insurers, whose policies are void if the death is intentionally self-inflicted, or if the policy is less than 13 months old at the time of a suicide death.  People could “rort the system” by taking out life insurance, then using a doctor to assist in ending their life ten days later.
  2. The legislation would affect not just Tasmanians, but all Australians – who could qualify as Tasmanian residents simply by gaining a Tasmanian driver’s licence on the day they arrive, using their Australian licence and a Tasmanian rent receipt.  Tasmania could become a centre for “death tourism”.
  3. To qualify for death assistance, a person must have an incurable and irreversible medical condition – but that condition, such as diabetes or rheumatoid arthritis, may nevertheless be treatable.  The condition must also be persistent and in an “advanced” stage – but “advanced” is undefined and is a subjective measure.
  4. The medical condition must  cause suffering that is “intolerable for the person” – again a subjective measure, and highly influenced by treatable mental conditions such as depression.
  5. Under the bill, the person who assesses the condition is a “primary medical practitioner”, who is not required to have known the person before receiving his or her euthanasia request, and who may not have much understanding of mental illness or palliative care.  The primary medical practitioner must get a second opinion – possibly from another GP who has previously treated someone else with the condition.  But if the second opinion does not support the primary medical practitioner’s assessment, the primary practitioner can seek a third opinion.  The legislation is thus open to abuse and “medical opinion-shopping”.
  6. The time between requesting assisted death and receiving a lethal dose and possible suffocation could be just ten days.  This is far too short to detect impulsive requests.  There is no redress after death.
  7. The bill would require a registrar to review assisted deaths after they occurred – but too late to protect a person who has been wrongfully killed in this way.  A key witness would be dead: the only other direct witness would be the primary medical practitioner, who would report on his own actions and would be unlikely to admit to any offence.

  8. Many people who say they want assisted death do so because they are suffering from treatable clinical depression, a condition hard to diagnose without specialist knowledge.  The primary medical practitioner is not required to consult a psychiatrist or psychologist – so some people could die without ever receiving the healing that might have been available.
  9. It is an offence under the bill to coerce someone to request assisted death, but such coercion would be very difficult to detect – it could simply be a relative expressing concern, making the person feel a “burden”.  One of the witnesses to the request can be a beneficiary under the person’s will – again, making the bill’s provisions open to abuse.
  10. Incredibly, it is an offence under the bill to exert undue influence in persuading a person to rescind their request for assisted death.  A Lifeline counsellor or a loving relative could feel at risk of jail or a large fine, and thus be deterred from giving counsel that could save lives.
  11. The bill would deny religious freedom, by forcing religious hospitals with a commitment to the sanctity of human life to continue to employ health practitioners who give lethal doses of poison to people on other premises.
  12. The bill says primary medical practitioners should recommend, but does not require, that a person requesting death assistance inform family and friends – who might be able to alleviate the concerns that led to the request and who may suffer lasting grief because they were not informed.
  13. The provisions of the bill are open to manipulation by euthanasia advocates such as Dr Philip Nitschke, who is on record as supporting the “right to die, and to be assisted in dying”, of the “depressed, the elderly bereaved , the troubled teen”.

An analysis of the Voluntary Assisted Dying Bill 2013, with full references, is available on request.




  • Human life and dignity

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