TOWNSVILLE Bishop Tim Harris has added to the voice of Queensland Church leaders by criticising Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk for “playing with peoples’ emotions”, after she promised to rush through Voluntary Assisted Dying legislation if Labor wins the state election on October 31.
Ms Palaszczuk used a campaign launch on October 18 to announce Labor would fast-track VAD legislation by introducing it to Parliament next February.
Bishop Harris described the Premier’s move as a “backflip” after she previously committed to draft legislation being prepared by the Queensland Law Reform Commission.
“This is clearly a backflip on her commitment that she would wait for the report from the QLRC in March (next year), and I am deeply disturbed and disappointed by this clear election stunt,” Bishop Harris told reporters in Townsville.
“Something as significant as VAD needs to be thought carefully through, examined and that’s what I thought the Government was going to do – in fact she talked about getting it right – well I don’t think she’s got it right.”
Bishop Harris said VAD was contrary to Catholic belief of “Thou shalt not kill”.
“It goes completely against the grain – anything to do with suicide, and certainly voluntary assisted suicide,” he said.
“What we want is people who are dying, or in that particular situation, to be surrounded by family and friends, but also to be given the best quality palliative care available
“Our view is that we are pro-life from the beginning to the end and it means accompanying people along the way. So we don’t put down anybody.
“Human beings are created in the likeness of God and that’s how we should treat them.”
In 28 years as a priest, Bishop Harris said he had sat with many people who have been dying.
“To be with them, to talk with them, to let them share their fears – it’s a great privilege and honour and that’s something I will never forget,” he said.
“My mum and dad were looked after through palliative care and I was with them to the very end.
“So at the heart of what we believe, and I believe, is the dignity of the human person and we can keep the human person dignified with the highest quality palliative care.”
Bishop Harris said the Catholic Church did not want to see anyone suffer from “uncontrolled pain” at the end of life.
“The advice is that most pain can be controlled. I am prepared to admit that some pain cannot be … however we cannot accept voluntary assisted dying,” he said.
Bishop Harris said allocating much more money to palliative care offered the Government an opportunity to “raise the bar” in delivering the best possible end-of-life care for Queenslanders.
“We will get to a stage, please God, where we can control all pain … get us to a situation where people don’t even think about an option that’s going to be presented to them … for voluntary assisted dying,” he said.
“We should be doing everything we can to ‘care first’ and make people comfortable now so that they don’t ever think the next stage is even desirable.”
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