This morning I stood with my party room colleagues on the steps of Parliament in support of greater funding for palliative care and in opposition to the Voluntary Assisted Dying Bill 2017.

The legislation was introduced into the lower house this week and I’d anticipate it will be brought back for debate as part of the government business program in the next sitting week.

The tabling of the bill is the culmination of several months of public discourse. During that time I have been lobbied by both sides of the issue, I have listened to experts – locally and state-wide, heartbreaking stories from people who have had to deal with terminally-ill family and received countless emails, letters and phone calls from people in Benambra.

Given that knowledge, my own introspection and having now read through the bill I don’t believe there are sufficient safeguards for me to support this legislation in a conscience vote.

 

Quotes attributable to Mr Tilley

This has been one of the most emotionally challenging issues I have faced since being elected.

It’s a matter of conscience and I have had to dig deep into the morality and ethics of the proposed legislation and its impact on society.

This bill legalises the right to take your own life by ingesting a prescribed drug.

Despite the government’s assurances I’m still to be convinced that this legislation has the adequate safeguards to protect the vulnerable, those with incurable cancer, progressive neurological illness, the aged and disabled.

From my own experience and the advice of medical experts I know these people experience high rates of depression and isolation and are prone to make decisions in the depths of despair.  In my opinion the risks that someone may choose assisted dying in one of these periods is too great.

I also fear that enacting this bill will place people at risk of coercion – both active and passive. I understand that the legislation includes heavy penalties for those seen to be pushing someone down this path but there is also the suggestion that these laws would make the individual re-evaluate their own life – for the elderly and terminally ill, choose assisted dying as a means of unburdening their family.

Internationally we have also seen that this type of legislation, once law, is often diluted to include a range of other scenarios that are far from palatable. Just three months ago the Oregon senate, the US state that featured as world’s best practice by the committee that investigated this matter, debated a bill that would allow demented patients and others with “mental incompetence” to be starved to death.

The Coalition has already announced a policy to add $140 million to increase palliative care services and I believe that at this time it is the preferable option.

That policy would see a 50 per cent increase in the number of people able to access palliative care across the state. Importantly for us it would double the number of specialist palliative care medical and nursing services to community palliative care clients in rural and regional Victoria

In the coming days I will be sending copies of the bill to those who have shown interest in the legislation. I’d be interested in further feedback when they have read the bill rather than just looking to re-state their personal beliefs.

At the end of the day that is what I have to vote on – the bill before the house.

 

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