16 September 2021, The Tablet

Assisted dying law passes in Queensland

Assisted dying law passes in Queensland

Jesuit Father Frank Brennan, rector of Newman College at the University of Melbourne, Australia, has criticised the law.
CNS photo/Australian Catholic University via The Catholic

Queensland has passed a law allowing assisted dying, making it the fifth state in Australia to do so.

Members of the Queensland parliament voted 61-30 for a Voluntary Assisted Dying Bill that will be enacted in January 2023 allowing people suffering a disease, illness or medical condition that is advanced, progressive and terminal to access to voluntary-assisted dying.

In the lead up debate over three days MPs fought back tears as they told personal stories and revealed the difficulty of weighing up opposing views on euthanasia and assisted dying. 

For a person to opt for assisted dying their condition must be expected to cause death within a year, they must have decision-making capacity, and proceed without coercion.

Queensland’s Deputy Premier Steven Miles said the laws won’t make people’s deaths less tragic, but it will ease their pain and suffering.

“For me, I do not know if the loved ones I have seen suffer at the end of their lives would have wanted access to voluntary assisted dying,” Mr Miles said on Tuesday.

“I would like them to have known they had a choice.”

However a lack of palliative care services available to people living in remote, far-flung Queensland was one of the reasons many MPs gave as they spoke in opposition to the laws.

MP Joe Kelly, a nurse representing a Brisbane seat told the parliament in his professional view good palliative care could provide a dignified death.

Catholic Health Australia has run a concerted campaign to protect Catholic-run hospitals and aged care facilities that provide about 20 per cent of hospital and aged care beds in Queensland.

The new laws will allow terminal patients at faith-based hospitals and aged care facilities to end their lives there, if they are too sick to be moved somewhere else.

“It is deeply troubling for the wonderful men and women who run these hospitals,” opposition deputy and member for Toowoomba South, David Janetzki, said.

Queensland’s treasurer Cameron Dick said he supported passing assisted dying law, but did so “with a troubled conscience”.

Mr Dick said he feared the law would change how our society viewed the sanctity of life.

Australian Jesuit academic Fr Frank Brennan has raised major concerns about the Queensland’s assisted dying law.

Fr Brennan, rector of Newman College at the University of Melbourne and whose grandfather was a member of the Queensland parliament, has pointed to several glaring excesses of Queensland’s version of voluntary-assisted dying.

In Victoria, the first state to pass euthanasia laws, a doctor can “buy out” of all aspects by informing their patients they have a conscientious objection to being involved, Fr Brennan said.

But he said Queensland’s law would force a doctor who views it morally unacceptable to provide the patient with information about another provider “who, in the practitioner’s belief, is likely to be able to assist the person with the person’s request”.

The Queensland bill “will upset some nursing home residents who would prefer to be left in peace, violate the consciences of some of Queensland’s finest health practitioners, and interfere with the smooth operation of some of Queensland’s finest hospitals and aged-care facilities”, Fr Brennan warned.






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