Greens leader Nick McKim expects just one or two votes will decide whether Tasmania’s voluntary euthanasia legislation passes its first parliamentary hurdle this week.
Debate on the legislation, co-sponsored by Mr McKim and Premier Lara Giddings, will start tomorrow.
“Given that leaders have said it will be a conscience vote I expect the debate to run into Wednesday evening and probably into Thursday as well,” Mr McKim said.
“I think it is going to be a very close debate and I think it is going to pass or fall by one or two votes either way.”
Ms Giddings said yesterday the legislation was an important social reform.
“We have pursued Voluntary Assisted Dying legislation because more than 80 per cent of Tasmanians have expressed support for this reform,” she said.
She called on the Liberal Party to support the Bill instead of questioning her Government’s priorities.
“The State Government has introduced and passed more than 200 pieces of legislation in the current term of Parliament and, of those, three relate to important social reform,” she said.
“It’s a bit far-fetched that 80 per cent of Tasmanians support this but not a single Liberal Party member appears willing to vote in favour of the Bill.”
Mr McKim and Ms Giddings were forced to defend the legislation yesterday as it came under fire from a disability group, the anti-euthanasia lobby and doctors.
Lives Worth Living, a network of senior disability rights advocates, raised concerns the Bill would allow voluntary euthanasia for people suffering from disabilities who were not terminally ill.
In an a letter sent to all Lower House MPs, the group said: “Most disabilities are permanent and not able to be cured. Many disabilities are progressive or have stages. And many people who acquire disabilities believe them to be intolerable only to change our minds over time.
“This appears to effectively open the door to the Bill encompassing some disabilities which could be unacceptable to a person at a point in time but then become bearable at a later point in time, given the right supports.”
Mr McKim said the legislation was clear. “Having a disability is not, of itself, enough reason to have access to the Bill,” he said. “In Tasmania suicide is not a crime, but assisting suicide is a crime. If you are so disabled that you cannot kill yourself and you are reduced then to asking for assistance, the law currently discriminates against you.”
Doctors Opposed to Euthanasia have also written to all Tasmanian MPs, calling on them to reject the legislation.
The group, headed by former parliamentary speaker Dr Frank Madill, said advances in palliative medicine meant there was no valid need to consider alternatives that involved killing a person instead of relieving their suffering.Read the full story... (off-site)