Queensland could be the fourth state in Australia to allow euthanasia, with a voluntary assisted dying bill tabled in parliament.
Brisbane Archbishop, Mark Coleridge, who is also president of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference, labelled the move to introduce a VAD bill as “deeply disapoointing”.
He said: “We join with the many medical professionals who say we should do all we can to protect Queenslanders rather than assist them in dying.”
Queensland’s Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said she supported the VAD bill after witnessing the slow, painful deaths of her grandmother and uncle last year, but she would allow Labor MPs a conscience vote in parliament.
“I’m a Catholic, I’ve thought about this long and hard,” Ms Palaszczuk told a media conference.
“I’ve had a lot of personal experiences in the last 12 months, and I have made up my mind based on what I have seen and those experiences.
“And like I said, this is a choice, and it’s not going to be the right choice for a lot of people, but it’s got to be an option for people, and far be it for me to make that individual choice on how a person wishes to end their life.”
Archbishop Coleridge issued a full statement in which he said the government should be focussing on providing palliative care rather than rushing towards euthanasia, while “serious questions remain about the consultation of Queensland’s First Nations people”.
“We say they should have a voice, and they are speaking on this, but the State Government hasn’t listened,” he said.
“This announcement also comes at a time when the State continues to discuss reducing our devastating suicide rate.
“That’s a difficult message to promote when the State Government is also paving the way for Queenslanders to take their own lives, with a law that says suicide is an acceptable option, with even a medico to assist.”
The draft VAD bill together with a final report on the viability of voluntary assisted dying can be accessed here.
Under the bill, people would only be eligible for euthanasia if they have either a disease, illness or medical condition that is advanced, progressive and will cause death.
Their condition would be expected to cause their death within 12 months and it must lead to suffering that is “intolerable”.
Legally, patients would have to be assessed to be acting voluntarily and without coercion, aged at least 18 and be a Queensland resident.
Victoria is the only Australian state in which a process for voluntary assisted dying is active, but Western Australia and Tasmania have passed their own laws.
South Australia is also a step closer to having a voluntary assisted dying regime after the state’s upper house recently passed legislation.