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Legislation for Advanced Care Directives


Rosalie Woodruff MP

Rosalie Woodruff MP  -  Wednesday, 27 November 2019

Tags: Palliative Care

Dr WOODRUFF (Franklin) - Madam Deputy Speaker, the Greens are very pleased to support this motion brought on by the member for Clark, Ms Ogilvie, today. From what I understand from Ms White's reading of the amendments, we have not seen a copy of it yet, but if we could see a copy of it then I could respond that in principle we strongly support the additional clauses to the motion because we too recognise the very important role that Palliative Care Tasmania plays in providing advice and guidance for individuals having to make end-of-life decisions and to their families.

One of the things I think is important about enshrining in legislation a position on end-of-life decision making and advanced care planning is that it fundamentally removes an enormous amount of stress for individuals nearing the end of their life and for their families. I have experienced situations where families have strongly differing views about how somebody else should approach their end-of-life decisions around their health care, their mobility and decisions about seeking active treatment to extend, prolong, or not prolong their life. These are painful, difficult decisions and it is why the Greens strongly support having a body such as Palliative Care Tasmania with continuity of funding and an assurance that they can be there to provide those services to the extent that is needed in Tasmania.

We would all agree that we are an ageing population. Each of us in this room, everyone is ageing, but collectively as a population we are growing older proportionately and there are more people who will need the services for end-of-life planning. Any of us can have our life can end at any time . We do not get to choose. Making advanced care directives, or advance directive wishes considering enduring guardianships, would be a good idea for every member of society over the age of 18. I have put it on the list of good ideas that I really should get on to. I, like many other people, probably have in the back of my mind the feeling that it would be valuable for us and for our families if we attended to these matters. Note to self : this is something that I really should pay attention to that I keep pushing away, like other things. It is fantastic to have organisations like Palliative Care Tasmania and Dying with Dignity Tasmania helping to elevate these issues and remind people about having conversations to remind people that we need to pay attention to this.

I want to talk about the work of Dying with Dignity and pay respect to the president, Margaret Singh, who has long been an advocate for all the issues relating to the right of people to make decisions about their death and dying, with the same freedom of choice, personal autonomy and human rights that they have in other aspects of their lives. This is not an either/or issue and the Greens, along with organisations like Dying with Dignity, see the issues in palliative care, end of life, advanced care decision-making and guardianship to be part of the suite along with voluntary-assisted dying and dying with dignity options so that people can make every active, dignified, choice about what we will do when we reach a time that we have no control over what is happening to us, where decisions will be made on behalf, whether we are competent or conscious, as to whether we get no response to an infection, whether we have resuscitation, whether we have blood transfusions or whether we are fed and hydrated.

These are huge decisions and we believe that, along with the work that the Government and OPC will be doing in the area of codifying end-of-life decision-making and advanced care planning, we also need to bring into this place, sooner rather than later, legislation to provide people with the dignified option, to have their choice of when their life ends, if they find themselves in a situation where they are in pain that cannot be ended by pain relief and in a situation in which they know their suffering is so great that they no longer want to continue to live.

The Greens are very strong supporters of palliative care. We are very strong supporters of ensuring that people have access to enduring guardianship when they need it. The work of the TLRI and the vast number of recommendations they made in their 2018 report are a great contribution and they need to be taken up by the Government with alacrity so that we can bring forward the work of the previous minister, Vanessa Goodwin, who started this conversation and did that work, and put that body of work to the TLRI to investigate. The work has been done. The committee has made its deliberation and we strongly support that we move on and provide people with the options for dignity and certainty and do what we can to help reduce the stress and suffering of families and individuals in what is a very painful process but can be done with beauty, love and compassion.