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End of Life Choices (Voluntary Assisted Dying) Bill 2020

The End-of-Life Choices (Voluntary Assisted Dying) private members Bill 2020 has been introduced with the intention to provide a voluntary assisted dying process for people deemed eligible, along with safeguards and legal protections to those who provide the assistance.

ANMF officials and Branch Council, have met with Mr. Gaffney (MLC) to review the proposed legislation and discuss what this could mean for our members. The Bill clearly will have implications for Nurse Practitioners and Registered Nurses if it becomes Law. If passed by the Legislature, the resulting Act will allow Nurse Practitioners and Registered Nurses, who have completed the mandatory training and who are nominated by the individual, to administer the substance to that person in the final stage of the assisted dying process.

The ability for Registered Nurses to participate in this process is further supported under section 78 of the Bill: If there is an inconsistency between a provision of this Act and a provision of the Poisons Act 1971 or the Misuse of Drugs Act 2001, the provision of this Act prevails to the extent of the inconsistency. 

This essentially means that, if passed, the Act will override section 25A of the Poisons Act 1971 thereby enabling willing Registered Nurses to administer a restricted substance in the final stage of assisted dying.

Section 25A(1) of the Poisons Act provides that: The Minister may authorize in writing a registered nurse or midwife to be in possession of and to supply restricted substances or narcotic substances or restricted substances or narcotic substances of a class specified in the authorization, in such circumstances and subject to such conditions as may be so specified. The authority of the Minister would not be required in circumstances governed by the draft Bill. The Bill also allows for conscientious objections.

It is understood that many ethical questions arise when discussing matters such as assisted dying. While we acknowledge and appreciate that everyone has the right to their opinion on the question of assisted dying, it is important to note that no one will be required to participate under this legislation if it should become law. For that reason, we would really appreciate receiving any comments or concerns that you might have about the substance of the draft Bill, rather than whether the bill should be discussed at all given that it will be going before Parliament regardless.

The ANMF are very keen to provide feedback to a Parliamentary briefing on 23 August 2020 on behalf of members. The ANMF encourage you to review the Bill available here and email your feedback to ANMF via using the title ‘Feedback: Assisted Dying Bill’, no later than 20 August 2020.

Updates correct as at 7 August 2020.
Authorised by Emily Shepherd, ANMF Tasmanian Branch Secretary

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