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Open letter to Will Hodgman

By Marshall Perron - posted Friday, 3 January 2014

29th Nov 2013

Tasmanian Liberal Leader
Will Hodgman MP

Dear Will,

I write in regard to your contribution to the debate on the Voluntary Assisted Dying Bill in October.

You commenced with an attempt to convince the audience that Liberal Party members were allowed a conscience vote on the Bill. You know, and I know, that was a lie. We both know how power operates in political parties.


You will recall telling me "the Liberal Party is a broad church" during our meeting on this issue. It seems odd then, that 100% of your members genuinely hold a view contrary to one shared by 85% of the population. It is statistically improbable.

I premise my comments in the belief, gained during our discussion, that you have some sympathy for the plight of those who suffer unbearably, however nowhere in your speech was this evident. That being the case, I suspect you have succumbed to pressure from the religious right within the Liberal Party and, to justify your vote, cobbled together a list of tired arguments against law reform. Arguments that you know have been discredited by respected authority.

In your speech you expressed concern for doctors who do not want their cosy paternalistic position as deathbed decision makers disturbed, for lawyers and for the "vulnerable" (although you do not specify who they are). The primary beneficiary of such legislation however, the elderly, anxious about their possibly undignified demise, and those currently dying with unrelievable suffering, rated not a single mention.

You shunned those Tasmanians with incurable illness who personally pleaded with you to allow them the option of a peaceful death with dignity. The needs of real people who face their remaining short life in misery are dismissed on the basis that some other unknown group of ineligible people may be assisted to die against their will (despite the fact the process can only be driven by the applicant).

In a shallow effort to discredit lawful schemes in operation internationally you relied solely on inaccurate and distorted data about instances of non-reporting, involuntary and non-voluntary euthanasia. The Dutch are the only people in the world who have had the interest and the courage to formally quantify how their citizens die so that debate on the public's demand for voluntary euthanasia is informed. Their continued pursuit of the truth exposes them to uninformed criticism such as yours.

In Australia, no Government, the AMA, or religious organisation wants to know the incidence of euthanasia practised. What we do know from University research is that euthanasia without patient consent is several times higher here than in the Netherlands.


We also know that Australian doctors intentionally hasten the death of terminally ill patients every day, without safeguards or scrutiny. Is this situation not ripe for abuse? Are the 'vulnerable' not at risk here?

I cannot let pass your statement, "there's…nothing to prevent a person changing their GP and requesting death at a first appointment…" Do you really believe Australians should be prevented from dropping their doctor for one more sympathetic to their plight? You can't be serious.

It is relevant that the proposed legislation you rejected actually required a multitude of medical opinions on diagnosis, prognosis and state of mind. None of these apply today when an individual resorts to suicide to relieve unbearable suffering. Doctor shopping is pointless; however the hardware store has plenty of rope.

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About the Author

Marshall Perron is the former Northern Territory Chief minister who introduced Voluntary Euthanasia legislation to the Northern Territory Parliament.

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