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Killing is killing: Queensland bishops rally against push to legalise voluntary assisted dying

A SUBMISSION by Queensland’s six Catholic bishops calling for the protection of human dignity is among hundreds received by a parliamentary inquiry considering end-of-life issues including voluntary assisted dying laws.

“A law that would allow direct intentional killing (“voluntary assisted dying”), even if only under strict circumstances, opens the way to a culture in which life is disposable,” the bishops said in a joint submission on behalf of the Church.

“In such a society, even the provision of medical care can become subjected to a rationalisation of the worthiness of a particular person to receive it.” 

More than 300 documents were lodged before the cut-off date of April 15, as the State Government attempts to gauge the level of support for euthanasia, part of a larger consideration of aged care, end-of-life and palliative care, and voluntary assisted dying. 

There is a strong push to legalise voluntary assisted dying.

The bishops said legalising intentional direct killing of oneself or another undermined human freedom when a person was presented with a false choice between dying horribly and killing themselves.

“It undermines freedom because the choice offered is a false one,” they said.

“There is ample evidence that high-quality palliative care means that death need not be a horrible experience. 

“If we are not providing high-quality aged care and palliative care, then we should make every effort do so.”

The bishops said some people might argue against using the word “kill” because it was morally charged.

 “We disagree: ‘murder’ is morally charged; ‘kill’ is not. Killing is a clear descriptive verb,” they said.

Semi-retired general practitioner Dr Timothy Coyle with 48 years’ experience agreed with the bishops in his submission.

“Voluntary assisted dying is the euphemistic phrase attached to the direct killing of a human for alleged humanitarian purposes, a cosmetic use of the phrase to cover up the reality of direct killing of a human is intended to take place,” Dr Coyle said.

“A community that kills the vulnerable, elderly, the sick, is not a progressive community, but a community of death.”

Of the dozens of submissions arguing against change, many said better palliative care options would rule out the need for assisted-dying  laws.

“Having worked in hospitals in aged care, this bill deeply concerns me,” Lucy Robinson wrote in her online submission.

“I have seen both relatives and ‘well meaning’ health providers harass a dying person as they would benefit from their earlier demise; whether it be to obtain access to the inheritance sooner or vacate a hospital bed which was deemed better used for another person.

“Death is a natural part of life and if the person is receiving good palliative care there really is no need for euthanasia.”

The bishops agreed: “The deeper question that this inquiry is addressing, then, is how should we as individuals and as a society respond to the vulnerabilities inherent in aging and dying, inherent, in other words, in being human?”

“No one should have to die horribly, and no one should have to feel that their only way to avoid it is to kill themselves,” they said.

“The offer of such a choice is a violation of human freedom and frustrates flourishing.

“We applaud all efforts to improve aged care and palliative care that help us as individuals and communities deal in more meaningful and life-affirming ways with the vulnerabilities of our own mortality, especially in the current social conditions of Queensland.” 

The inquiry will start public hearings in May, starting in Caloundra on May 3, and is due to tender a report to Parliament on November 30.

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