QLD assisted suicide debate reprieve

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Nurses provide care to a patient in the palliative care unit of a hospital near Paris. Photo: CNS photo/Philippe Wojazer, Reuters
The palliative care crisis identified in Queensland must be urgently remedied first, say advocates. Photo: CNS photo/Philippe Wojazer, Reuters

Premier delays debate until after October state election

The Church and pro-life groups have welcomed a delay to the introduction of assisted suicide legislation in the Queensland parliament.

Premier Annastacia Palaszsczuk announced yesterday that instead of debating and vote on government’s voluntary assisted dying (VAD) legislation before the October state election, the proposed draft will now be referred to the Law Reform Commission to report back to the Attorney-General by next March.

“Voluntary assisted dying is very complex and it is a deeply personal issue in which competing interests and views of Queenslanders and experts have to be carefully balanced and the lives of our elderly and the most vulnerable people protected,” she said.

“Voluntary assisted dying is very complex and it is a deeply personal issue”

“The provision of compassionate, high quality and accessible palliative care for persons at their end of life is a fundamental right for the Queensland community and it is critical that we get this right.

“There are always a number of operational issues to work through before we can implement any kind of voluntary assisted dying scheme in Queensland at this time.

“For these reasons, I believe the law reform in this area requires further careful consideration — we did this for the Termination of Pregnancy bill.”

Now put palliative care first, urge advocates

Archbishop of Brisbane Mark Coleridge said the Premier’s decision was wise although not unexpected amid the state’s fight to respond to the coronavirus pandemic. He said palliative care reform should now take precedence.

“It was always a dark irony that you would even contemplate legislating [voluntary assisted dying] when the COVID-19 crisis is casting the shadow of death across the planet – particularly to the most vulnerable,” Archbishop Coleridge said.

“The Parliamentary Health committee’s report tabled in late March also found that the provision of palliative care to Queenslanders was severely lacking. This is where the focus should now be.

The recommendations to reject the Bill came after a five-member delegation from the Catholic Church, led by Brisbane’s Archbishop Mark Coleridge, urged a Senate Committee to allow issues relating to students to be considered within the context of other discussions occurring around religious freedom. Photo: CNS photo/Paul Haring
Brisbane’s Archbishop Mark Coleridge says urgent health reform to support the dying must come before any law reform in the area. Photo: CNS photo/Paul Haring

“The state needs to consider health reform to address a health issue before it considers law reform to address a health issue.

“A ‘care first’ approach is always going to be the better response to the statewide lack of access to palliative care revealed by the Parliamentary Health Committee Final Report, tabled back in March.

“With the advancements in health over the last 20 years there is a strong likelihood that a properly funded holistic palliative care system would soon make calls for VAD legislation redundant,” he said.

“A ‘care first’ approach is always going to be the better response”

Cherish Life executive director Teeshan Johnson said the Premier had “resisted the push from extremists to rush through euthanasia laws” but it was still disappointing that “there is any appetite for euthanasia legislation from the government”.

104-year old Australian scientist David Goodall on his way to a press conference the day before his 2018 assisted suicide in Switzerland. Photo: Aapeorgos Kefalas, EPA

“It’s also very disappointing that the Government continues to ignore Queensland’s glaring palliative care deficit, with only one-third of the palliative care specialists needed. This gross neglect needs to be addressed urgently.”

The Australian Christian Lobby is running a petition on its website urging the government and opposition to reject any consideration of euthanasia legislation.

“Instead of legalising assisted suicide, Queenslanders deserve access to world-class palliative care,” it said.

President of the Australian Medical Association in Queensland Dr Dilip Dhupelia had previously attacked the “disproportionate level of focus on voluntary assisted suicide”.

“I urge the State Government to address the drastic underfunding of palliative care so that Queenslanders can have the reassurance of comfort and dignity – a ‘good death’ – when they die,” Dr Dhupelia said.

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