Euthanasia and assistance to suicide became legal in Tasmania from 23 October 2022 under the End-of-Life Choices (Voluntary Assisted Dying) Act 2021.
The Tasmanian law goes further than those in Victoria and Western Australia by providing for an exemption from the requirement that the person has a medical condition which is “expected to cause the death of the person within 6 months; or if the disease is neurodegenerative within 12 months”, if the State-appointed Voluntary Assisted Dying Commission, after consulting a medical practitioner with specialist knowledge as to the person’s medical condition and who has reviewed the person’s medical records, is satisfied that this requirement should not apply.
This opens the door to euthanasia and assisted suicide for people who may have years to live.
Any medical practitioner who is asked to determine whether a person is eligible for euthanasia or assistance to suicide under the law, is required to give the person a copy of a State-prepared document called “Voluntary Assisted Dying in Tasmania: Relevant facts”, which includes contact details for the Voluntary Assisted Dying Navigation Service which will facilitate access to euthanasia and assistance to suicide.
A medical practitioner who refuses a First Request for euthanasia or assistance to suicide must also record this request and refusal in the person’s medical records as well as notify the Commission on the prescribed form.
Euthanasia option available on request
Like Western Australia, but unlike Victoria, the person can choose either self-administration of the lethal poison (suicide), with or without assistance from a health practitioner, or be administered the lethal poison (euthanasia) by the health practitioner. In jurisdictions where euthanasia is available as well as assistance to suicide, the overwhelming majority choose euthanasia and the overall take-up rate is higher than in jurisdictions where only assistance to suicide is authorised by the law.
The Tasmanian law provides for a person who is to be euthanased or assisted to suicide to authorise in advance the administration of a further substance to cause death more quickly or reduce pain if unexpected complications arise following the initial administration or self-administration of the poison.
There is also a provision where the person can request in advance, that in these circumstances, the health practitioner takes reasonable action to preserve the person’s life. It seems unlikely that this option will be elected by a person making a final request for administration of a lethal poison for the purpose of causing the person’s death.
Reports and Review
The Act requires an initial report after six months of operation as well as ongoing annual reports. It is to be reviewed after 3 years of operation and every 5 years after that.