[As originally published in The Examiner by Matt Maloney on July 17th 2020]
A new group to lobby against a new push for assisted dying legislation in Tasmania has been formed.
The group Live and Die Well is led by Ben Smith who also led a group against transgender recognition reforms before the Legislative Council last year.
Mr Smith said the new group’s aim was to advocate for laws that supported end-of-life decision making, advanced care planning, and increased funding for palliative care.
He said Live and Die Well were concerned an assisted dying bill, scheduled to be brought on for debate by Mersey independent MLC Mike Gaffney in the upper house next month, contained an eligibility criteria which was too broad.
“The Gaffney bill does not require the person concerned to be terminally ill or that their death be expected within a six-month time frame,” Mr Smith said.
“The Gaffney Bill will be open to people who have serious medical conditions but are not dying.”
He said a recent KPMG report on palliative care in Australia found an investment of $365 million into the palliative care system would generate $464 million in savings due to improved patient outcomes.
Mr Smith said the group have a broad membership of people from different churches and was managed by a 15-member council.
Mr Gaffney said his bill contained necessary safeguards to protect vulnerable people and urged opponents to examine the bill more thoroughly and carefully.
“No-one will be eligible for [voluntary assisted dying] just because they’ve got a particular condition – they must meet many requirements including intolerable suffering and serious, incurable and irreversible medical conditions with no chance of recovery, improvement or relief,” he said.
“They must also be competent adults, making repeated, voluntary and informed requests, that are checked and agreed by at least two doctors.”
Mr Gaffney said Live and Die Well were repeating the same claims of a minority of community members who opposed voluntary assisted dying wherever laws have been proposed.
“In every campaign against VAD laws, there are ‘pop-up’ groups like this with very few members and which are religious-based, repeating claims that have little basis in evidence or reasonable assumptions,” he said.