Draft Tasmanian bill is like ‘lipstick on a pig’

Tasmania’s Independent MLC Mike Gaffney has released another draft of his euthanasia and assisted suicide bill, purportedly after “wide” community consultation on the previous draft. 

Unfortunately, the changes to the bill appear to be largely cosmetic; the underlying ugliness remains.  Just like putting lipstick on a pig.

As one example of the cosmetic changes, references to a person “seeking assistance to die” in the old bill have now been replaced with references to a person ****. 

Another example is that instead of having a “Registrar for Assisted Dying,” the bill now has a “Commissioner for Assisted Dying,” but the functions remain the same.

Another change is that, in order to be eligible for euthanasia, a person’s disease needs to be “advanced, incurable and irreversible” rather than “serious, incurable and irreversible.” 

It’s all just semantics, and most of the problems with the original bill haven’t been changed in the latest draft. 

Under the current draft of the Gaffney bill:

  • There will be a mandatory review into extending euthanasia to minors after two years.
  • Mental illness still does not prevent a person from accessing euthanasia or assisted suicide;
  • The requirement that a person be “suffering intolerably” is still assessed subjectively, and includes the “anticipation” of suffering as sufficient for a person to qualify for euthanasia;
  • The medical professionals signing off on a patient’s death still do not ever have to physically assess the patient, with a consultation via audio-visual link permitted instead;
  • The timeframe between initial and final request for death for a patient can still be as little as four days;
  • There is still no requirement that any of the doctors signing off on a patient’s request for euthanasia specialise in the condition the patient is suffering;
  • There is still no prohibition on practitioners initiating euthanasia discussions with their patients.

There are really only two key changes to the bill.

The first is that, unlike the previous draft of the bill, a person now needs to have an illness that is expected to cause their death before being eligible for euthanasia or assisted suicide.  Kept very quiet by proponents of this bill, the previous draft had no such restriction.  However, even this restriction is only temporary, with the latest draft of the bill now requiring that a review occur to contemplate extending euthanasia for people suffering from “a disease, illness, injury or medical condition that is not expected to cause the death of the person” after three years.

The second is that there is now a process for people to request a review of an approval or rejection of an application for euthanasia or assisted suicide.  However, given the time between first and final request for euthanasia can be as little as four days, it is unclear how much of a safeguard this review process is.

Make no mistake, despite the window dressing, Gaffney’s bill is still as deadly as ever.