CATHOLICS have a chance to make known their views on euthanasia as a Queensland parliamentary health committee begins examining ways to ease the pain and suffering of the terminally ill.
A year-long “end-of-life” inquiry will not only consider voluntary euthanasia in Queensland, but also has the scope to examine wide-ranging reforms in aged and palliative care.
It will also look at the level of staffing within aged-care facilities, the training provided and if there are enough beds to meet community needs.
Members of the public have until April 15 to respond before the committee embarks on a series of public hearings across the state.
“These are critical areas where policies and priorities of government can profoundly affect the quality of life and dignity of vulnerable people every day,” committee chair Aaron Harper said.
Mr Harper said there had been 51 attempts nationwide to bring in voluntary-assisted dying laws but it had never before been attempted in Queensland.
“It’s historical, it’s significant. We want to hear the views of the Queenslanders,” he told parliament on February 14.
“No one wants to see people suffer at the end of their life so how do we better care for people. This has got to be an option that we ask Queenslanders to present views on.”
Leading a campaign to have euthanasia legalised, the chairman of Clem Jones Trust, David Muir, has urged the Government to deal with the issue this term.
However the pro-life group Cherish Life Queensland described the euthanasia campaign as one based on “deception and fear”.
“Euthanasia advocates give the false impression that terminally ill patients have to suffer excruciating pain and dreadful agony,” Cherish Life Queensland executive director Teeshan Johnson (pictured) said. “This is simply not the case with the advanced health care available today in Australia.
“It is entirely ethical, completely legal and best medical practice for a doctor to do whatever it takes to relieve a patient’s pain, even if it has the unintended but possible effect of hastening death.
“In the very rare cases when physical pain cannot be managed adequately, palliative care specialists can use a form of light sedation to keep the dying patient comfortable, whether to allow a brief ‘time out’ at peaks of pain, or to manage terminal symptoms.
“If euthanasia was legalised, any terminally ill patients, who need love and care, would feel pressure – whether real or imagined – to do ‘the right thing’ and request euthanasia so they are not ‘a burden on their family’.”
Ms Johnson said no safeguards were effective when it came to euthanasia – it was open to serious manipulation and can be the worst and ultimate form of abuse of those who were ill, elderly or disabled.
“This is one of the many reasons why the Australian Medical Association is opposed to the legalisation of euthanasia and instead supports palliative care, which is the true form of assisted dying,” she said.
“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.”
Ms Johnson said it was important the parliamentary inquiry examined adequate resourcing of palliative care and public education on the dying process, and examined the abuses that occur in the Netherlands, one of the few countries where euthanasia was legal.