QUEENSLAND Labor has signalled a parliamentary push to legalise abortion will be followed with an inquiry into end-of-life issues, including euthanasia.
With debate on the State Government’s abortion bill expected next month, Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk revealed to the state Labor conference plans for an inquiry to consider all aspects of end-of-life care, including voluntary assisted dying.
“Following the vote on the termination of pregnancy bill the parliamentary Health Committee will begin examining all issues to do with what’s known as end-of-life care,” Ms Palaszczuk told the conference on September 1.
“That includes aged care, palliative care and dying with dignity. This is an issue we must discuss. This is an issue we must confront.”
Pro-life advocates, including Opposition politicians have labelled the end-of-life inquiry as a tactic to legalise euthanasia.
Deputy Opposition Leader Tim Mander said assisted dying should not be a priority issue for the Government.
“This is a really personal and emotive issue – we agree that our aged and palliative care services need to be improved and we think that’s where the focus should be,” he said.
“These things are often not yes/no answers … that’s why they’re very complex and there’s layers of layers with regards to considering these things.”
Cherish Life Queensland’s new president Dr Donna Purcell agreed an inquiry to improve aged care and increase funding for palliative care services was needed, but said these crucial areas would not be given the attention they deserved if euthanasia was part of the terms of reference.
“Holding a parliamentary inquiry with a hand-picked committee is just following the tactic which enabled the Victorian Government to legalise assisted suicide last year, while ignoring the need to boost funding for palliative care,” she said.
“Legalisation of euthanasia would expose the vulnerable elderly and terminally ill to pressure – real or imagined – to do the ‘right thing’ and request death so they are not a ‘burden on their family’.”
From 2019, doctor-assisted death will be legal in Victoria and an inquiry is underway through the West Australian Parliament.
Ms Palaszczuk said she would also have the issue added to the COAG (Council of Australian Governments) national agenda so it could be discussed nationally.
The Premier has said she wanted to see how Victoria’s assisted-dying laws worked before pushing forward with an inquiry or seeking changes to Queensland law.
Dr Purcell said legalising euthanasia sent the message that some lives were not worth living and was utterly counter-productive to combating Australia’s suicide epidemic.
“No safeguards are effective when it comes to euthanasia,” she said. “It is open to serious manipulation and can be the worst and ultimate form of abuse of those who are ill, elderly or disabled.
“This is one of the reasons why this state-sanctioned killing is opposed by both the AMA (Australian Medical Association) and the World Medical Association.
“Euthanasia advocates give the false impression that terminally ill patients have to suffer excruciating pain and dreadful agony.
“This is simply not the case, as the advanced palliative care available today means that every Australian can have the hope of a tolerable dying process.
“Palliative care focuses on relieving pain and keeping patients comfortable in order to allow a natural and dignified death at their appointed time.
“Good medical practice is all about facilitating natural death with dignity and peace.
“Doctors should kill the pain, not the patient.”