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Voluntary assisted dying is now almost certain to be legalised in Tasmania

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Tasmania’s lower house of parliament late on Thursday passed voluntary assisted dying legislation 16 votes to six, making the practice all but certain to become law.

The legislation will need to return to the upper house for a final vote on the amendments that were made in the lower house. The upper house returns on 23 March. 

Premier Peter Gutwein described the passing of the bill as “parliament at its best”.

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Liberal Party members were allowed a conscience vote on the bill. 

The legislation allows people who are suffering from advanced, incurable and irreversible conditions to end their lives in situations where conditions would be expected to see them die within six months. 

Lower house MPs debated a number of amendments to the bill, including one that would stop people from using telehealth consultations to access voluntary assisted dying services. 

Greens leader Cassy O’Connor said not allowing telehealth services would make the legislation “effectively dysfunctional for people in rural and regional areas”.

But Liberal MP Guy Barnett, who voted against the bill, said in-person consultation was important.

“If you are the person concerned, surely you would want a physical meeting with your GP or specialist,” he said. “What we want is a comprehensive and robust bill, to protect the interest of vulnerable Tasmanians.”

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Ultimately, the amendment did not pass, nine votes to 13.

The Tasmanian government had asked an expert independent panel from the University of Tasmania to review the bill before the final vote. That review was released in late February.

It compared what was proposed in Tasmania with laws that were already operational interstate and overseas. 

“The Tasmanian VAD (voluntary assisted dying) 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 report said.

But the report also offered five amendments for consideration, including legislative professional protections for health providers that didn’t want to offer VAD services. 

Tasmania would be the third Australian state to allow voluntary assisted dying, after Victoria and Western Australia. 

Readers seeking support and information about suicide can contact Lifeline 24 hours a day online and on 13 11 14. Other services include the Suicide Call Back Service on 1300 659 467, Beyond Blue and Kids Helpline (for people aged five to 25) on 1800 55 1800.

The Australian Centre for Grief and Bereavement can be contacted on 1800 642 066.

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