14 September 2021, The Tablet

Queensland poised to pass euthanasia law

Queensland poised to pass euthanasia law

Archbishop Mark Coleridge is among Catholic Church leaders warning against euthanasia in Australia.
Evandro Inetti/ZUMA

Queensland is poised to become the fifth Australian state to pass laws allowing euthanasia.

Debate is expected to start in the Queensland parliament in Brisbane on Tuesday, September 14 and continue for several days before a final vote.

The Church strongly opposes euthanasia and this month Brisbane’s archbishop, Mark Coleridge, president of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference urged Catholics, their families and friends to sign a petition demanding Queensland MPs reject a Voluntary Assisted Dying (VAD) Bill.

“These laws, if passed, will overturn foundational principles that have underpinned our medical and legal systems for centuries – the ethic of ‘do no harm’ and the prohibition on killing,” Archbishop Coleridge said.

“Euthanasia and assisted suicide laws undermine the fundamental relationship of trust that should exist between a patient and their doctor.

At an eleventh-hour March for Life rally in Brisbane on Saturday a highly-experienced chest doctor warned that wrongful deaths will occur under Queensland’s proposed euthanasia laws, due to misdiagnosis.

“Unfortunately diseases are hard to predict and doctors make dramatic mistakes, at times,” thoracic physician, Dr Luke Garske, said.

Dr Garske spoke to a crowd of about 1000 VAD opponents about his experience with a patient who had a severe lung condition and was relying on oxygen to walk even a few steps.

Dr Garske told this patient he could expect to live for another 12 months.

“Six months later it became obvious he had a different diagnosis and he continued to improve,” he said.

“He (the patient) returned to my clinic once a year for the next 13 years, and every time he came in he had a big smile to remind me of my mistake.

“Now I ask you would it be okay if this patient had decided to have assisted suicide based on my wrong advice at the start?

“Now you might be thinking – that’s a ‘one off’ miracle case – but I am not actually a below average doctor, and there are thousands of doctors like me.

 “All experienced doctors have made a wrong diagnosis, and all experienced doctors have learned they can be wildly wrong in predicting survival.”

Dr Garske said there would be no practical way under Queensland’s proposed assisted dying laws to detect wrongful deaths of this kind.

Under Queensland’s VAD bill a person is eligible for voluntary assisted dying if they are expected to die within 12 months.

Under other Australian models the period is six months, except for progressive neurological conditions, in which case it’s 12 months.

“With the 12 months survival in Queensland there will be more wildly wrong estimates of survival, patients missing out on potentially many good years,” Dr Garske said.

“So the Queensland VAD will cause even more wrongful deaths.

“Please keep us all safe.”

In Australia, Victoria, Western Australia, South Australia and Tasmania have already pass laws legalising euthanasia and assisted dying.

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