RELIABLE QUALITY INFORMATION
Dying with Dignity Tasmania will continue to work for a principles- and evidence-based approach to voluntary assisted dying law reform, with support material for a well-informed and rational debate. We will continue our intensive research to make the best quality information available through our website and directly to the public and members of Parliament. Like all legislation, assisted dying laws must be considered on the basis of the best possible information available and well-reasoned arguments, in addition to key community principles and values.
We respect the right of everyone to their beliefs and values and to express their views on this important issue but with the right to express our views, there’s a responsibility to check claims so we don’t mislead parliamentarians. There is a particular responsibility for community leaders and those in positions of trust in our community who have the resources to check information to ensure it is dependable.
We know how strongly people feel on this issue – on both sides of the debate. Those views need to be heard but feelings and convictions alone are not a good basis for important decisions on our laws. Nor can good decisions be made on the basis of ill-informed speculation and unfounded fears. Too much of the material being put forward against the proposal has included very poor quality data and major errors in reasoning, including inaccuracies, irrelevant arguments and piecemeal ‘cherry-picking’ of minor details instead of addressing the key issues and arguments.
FACT: ROBUST REGULATORY FRAMEWORKS ARE SAFE, EFFECTIVE AND VALUED
It is now very clear from this extensive evidence that the public and parliamentarians can be confident that voluntary assisted dying legislation is needed, that it is safe and, in fact, safer and more responsible than allowing very unsatisfactory aspects of the current situation to continue. Assisted dying legislation is not a threat to vulnerable people in our community and risks are prevented with the careful safeguards in the robust, regulatory requirements.
The Victorian inquiry into end of life choices is just the latest of recent, thorough reviews and scrutiny of existing and proposed legal frameworks for voluntary assisted dying that have all reached a consistent conclusion – all the regulatory frameworks for doctor-provided voluntary assisted dying are working safely and effectively, regardless of the differences between them.
As the Chair of the Victorian inquiry says in his foreword to the June 2016 report: “While these jurisdictions differ significantly in their assisted dying models, what they all have in common is robust regulatory frameworks that focus on transparency, patient‑centred care and choice. We found no evidence of institutional corrosion or the often cited ‘slippery slope’. Indeed, the regulatory framework has been unchanged in Oregon, the Netherlands and Switzerland for many years.”
The same points are made elsewhere in the report, backed up by substantial evidence:
- Concerns raised in arguments against legalising assisted dying — such as the inability to implement and maintain effective safeguards — have not eventuated in jurisdictions where assisted dying is legal. The Committee did not find compelling evidence to support the negative consequences predicted by these claims. (p205)
- The evidence is clear that assisted dying can be provided in a way that guards against abuse and protects the vulnerable in our community in a way that unlawful and unregulated assisted dying does not. The Committee is satisfied, through its research into international jurisdictions, that assisted dying is currently provided in robust, transparent, accountable frameworks. The reporting directly from such frameworks, and the academic literature analysing them, shows that the risks are guarded against, and that robust frameworks help to prevent abuse. (p212)
Existing assisted dying systems work well because they are all doctor-safeguarded and all have the additional safeguard of regulated oversight for monitoring, scrutiny and reporting. There has now been intense scrutiny of experience of legislation elsewhere for many years and that has resulted in overwhelming evidence that doctors are implementing the legislation carefully and responsibly. There is every reason to assume that Tasmanian doctors will behave as responsibly and compassionately.
Only registered medical practitioners may assess requests for assisted dying, ensure all requirements and procedures are met, prescribe the drugs involved, provide them for monitored self-administration or doctor-administration, take responsibility for their safe-keeping and maintain and report required information. and reporting as required. At least two doctors must be involved, and most likely more. We can be justifiably proud of the quality of our medical education, training and skill development, rigorous registration system requiring high professional and ethical standards, and of the effective complaints and oversight regimes. These provide the broader context for trust in the doctor-safeguarded voluntary assisted dying system, especially for those regarded as ‘vulnerable’. Opponents of voluntary assisted dying legislation provide no evidence of trust in doctors or respect for them and our medical system.
When the legislation comes up for debate in Tasmania later this year, it will be the first time that parliamentarians will have such a high level of assurance that . They can be confident that it is responsible to vote for the legislation, and also to act with compassion, ensure the law keeps up with community changes and to act in a way which is consistent with the views of the vast majority of the community.
FACT: COMMUNITY SUPPORT, INCLUDING CHRISTIAN SUPPORT, IS HIGH
We have very good reasons to believe that the vast majority of the Tasmanian community support a legal option for voluntary assisted dying similar to the one proposed. The support is across the community – across age groups, religion and political views, and among doctors.
An information paper on community support as at April 2015 is available here. An updated paper will shortly be added, with the results of the 2016 AMA survey of members which showed significant levels of support for assisted dying.