THE Queensland Government’s controversial election promise to fast-track euthanasia legislation early next year is coming under increasing pressure.
Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk shocked Church leaders and other opponents of voluntary assisted dying (VAD) by announcing at Labor’s campaign launch on October 18 that legislation would be introduced next February if the Government was returned.
By advancing the timeframe, the Premier has put pressure on the Queensland Law Reform Commission to move quickly to consider final public submissions and to prepare a prototype VAD bill for the Government to present to Parliament.
Some of the final submissions to the Queensland Law Reform Commission raise complex issues about the bill’s legal framework as well as community concerns about why euthanasia is needed in the state.
Support among MPs is likely because Labor has increased its parliamentary majority.
Queensland would be the third state after Victoria and Western Australia to legalise assisted dying for terminally ill people.
The right to die is also on the agenda in Liberal-governed South Australia and Tasmania.
Catholic Health Australia has lodged its submission with the commission prefaced by restating that voluntary assisted dying legislation is not consistent with the ethical and enduring commitment to compassionate end-of-life care provided within Catholic health, community and aged-care services.
CHA’s submission points out that VAD contravenes Hippocratic ethical frameworks that demand doctors do no harm and do not kill a patient – a position supported by the Australian Medical Association and the World Medical Association.
The submission also raises the simple truth that VAD legislation introduces a tacit recognition by the State that some lives are not worth living.
The CHA submission points out that:
| VAD legislation would need to recognise that in religious-run hospitals and aged-care facilities that prohibit intentional killing or taking of life, staff would not be bound to participate in VAD.
| It would be wrong if the law were to present VAD as an alternative to high-quality palliative care. (While VAD has a direct intention to end life, palliative care aims to improve quality of life and remains within the healing tradition of medicine by providing accompaniment in end-of-life care.)
| If there remains unequal access to high-quality palliative care across Queensland for chronically ill patients then some might be forced down the path to VAD, which deprives them of the key tenet of autonomy.
“We believe that in Australia, with our high-quality health system supported by a well-resourced palliative care sector, that there is no place, and indeed no need, for voluntary assisted dying,” Catholic Health Australia chief executive officer Pat Garcia said.
Mr Garcia said CHA had faith in the commission’s stated aim to listen to interested parties, however the Government had made a clear commitment to table a bill by early next year.
“We hope that leaves enough time for every-one’s views to be taken into consideration before the Government proceeds to the next step,” he said.