Greens leader Nick McKim has vowed to keep fighting to legalise euthanasia, after his Bill was voted down in the Tasmanian Parliament last month. The Lower House voted 15 votes to seven against the Dying With Dignity Bill after a passion-filled four-hour debate. Mr McKim urged members to correct a legal anomaly which he said "protects us while we are alive but fails us while we are dying". In the Speaker's Reserve was the family of Robert Cordover, who passed away peacefully earlier this year after a harrowing fight with motor neurone disease.
Mr Cordover was a strident advocate for the right to die. "Robert was a brave, compassionate, witty, intelligent human being who forced himself to get out of bed to come to town and watch previous debates on this issue," Mr McKim said. "It is for people like Robert that I introduced this Bill and people like Robert that I will introduce it again and again for as long as I am re-elected to this Parliament." He said the slow and humiliating suffering of those who could not be supported by palliative care was a "disgrace".
During the conscience debate many members said they had thought long and hard about the issue but cited reasons of religion, legal concern and moral belief for voting against the Bill. Premier David Bartlett said the Bill contained too many legal uncertainties. "There is no more significant decision than one that affects the lives of Tasmanians and it is a decision we cannot afford to get wrong," he said. "I do not believe the Bill before us meets that standard -- on legal and medical grounds I am not convinced."
But Deputy Premier Lara Giddings said she believed in a person's right to choose. "I am happy to support Mr McKim's Bill because I believe in voluntary euthanasia and people's right to choose," she said. Liberal leader Will Hodgman who watched his mother die of cancer still could not support a law with potential to victimise the vulnerable. Liberal MPs Rene Hidding and Brett Whiteley unashamedly cited their Christian beliefs for voting against the Bill. Graeme Sturges said he had fought an internal battle before deciding he could not support voluntary euthanasia.
The Australian Christian Lobby (ACL) welcomed the resounding defeat of the Tasmanian euthanasia bill by the Tasmanian Parliament and challenged the Government to now step up palliative care support and resources for people with terminal illnesses, particularly in regional areas. ACL Tasmanian Director Nick Overton said that the defeat of the Dying with Dignity Bill 2009 was a victory for those who value life and for vulnerable sick, elderly and depressed people who would have been put at risk by the bill.
"We congratulate Lower House parliamentarians for rejecting a bill which could have corrupted the practice of medicine in Tasmania and sent dangerous messages to the sick and elderly that they should terminate their lives if they had become an 'inconvenience' to society. "This is the second time proposed euthanasia laws have been considered and rejected in Tasmania and it is time for euthanasia advocates to accept this decision and to stop diverting attention from the real need to provide better end of life care services for Tasmanians," Mr Overton said.
An important finding of the report into the bill by the Joint Standing Committee on Community Development was that "whilst palliative care is of a very good standard there is a need to have an improved system of management and resources, particularly in regional areas". The committee also found that "There was overwhelming agreement, in the written and verbal evidence to the Committee, that the Tasmanian Government needs to invest sufficient funds and resources in palliative care services in Tasmania."
Euthanasia bill defeated in Tasmania
Friday, 11 December 2009, 12:54 (EST)
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