MPs must end agony of those who’ve decided to die

DEATH will touch all of us at some stage in our lives.

That is a certainty.

Whether it be a parent, grandparent, child, sibling, partner, or ourselves, death will touch us.

It is as sure as knowing the sun came up this morning and will again tomorrow.

What is also a certainty is the profound effect watching a loved one pass away has on our lives.

Those who have gone through it know all too well the grief, the heartache, the excruciating, gut-wrenching, suffocating feeling of helplessness.

It stays with you.

It changes you.

It shapes your view of how you would like your own death to be, should you be lucky enough to have the choice.

For those watching their own death approaching right now, that ability to have choice is not just a mental note stuck up on the board for later, it is urgent.

Not everyone, if given the choice, would chose to end their lives with euthanasia.

But many terminally ill Queenslanders are right now desperately wanting that choice.

Many are taking their own lives in violent ways, voluntary-assisted dying advocates say, because they do not have that choice.

Noosa MP Sandy Bolton told Parliament last week she had lost 13 terminally-ill residents to suicide in just two years.

"This did not include those who flew overseas, away from all that they had known and their loved ones, to end their agony alone," she told the House.

"A Victorian coroner in an end-of-life inquiry used the example of an 82-year-old grandmother who used multiple items, including scissors, and a 90-year-old grandfather who used a nail gun.

"These beautiful, loved and loving human beings, who did not suffer with mental illness, were made desperate in their suffering. The horror, loneliness and fear they must have felt cannot be imagined."

Independent MP for Noosa Sandy Bolton at home in Coorooibah on the Sunshine Coast. Picture: Lachie Millard
Independent MP for Noosa Sandy Bolton at home in Coorooibah on the Sunshine Coast. Picture: Lachie Millard

Those words were as difficult to hear as they were for Ms Bolton to say.

But she said them for a reason.

She said them in the hopes it would prod Queensland's legislature into action.

Because almost 12 months after the Queensland Parliament gave hope to those wanting choice by calling a historic inquiry into voluntary-assisted dying, palliative care and aged care, there has still been no guarantee if or when its recommendations will be acted on.

And that is incredibly cruel.

Queenslanders deserve the certainty of knowing laws to legalise voluntary-assisted dying will be dealt with by this parliament this term - should they be recommended by the inquiry - and not kicked out into the long grass.

They deserve to know that any new laws will not be used as a political football at the next State Election.

That those laws will not be used to grab votes.

Politics is already incredibly cynical.

There is too much focus on winning the next election and not enough focus on doing what is best for the state right now.

Both sides of politics are guilty of that.

This issue cannot be allowed to fall victim to it.

It just cannot.

There is a justified concern that any voluntary-assisted dying laws brought before Parliament may not pass the House.

MPs will be allowed a conscience vote as is the convention so the Government cannot rely on its majority to ensure their success.

Not everyone sitting in those 93 seats supports it, for their own valid reasons.

Not everyone on Labor's side of the chamber will vote yes. And not everyone on the LNP's side will vote no.

The crossbench will also likely be split.

But that is not a reason to decide against giving our MPs the responsibility of casting that vote.

Should it fail then there is nothing stopping our politicians using the next election to seek a mandate from the public.

The Parliament has already extended the reporting date for the end-of-life inquiry looking at voluntary euthanasia to the end of March.

That leaves just six months for any new laws to be introduced, considered and debated.

That is cutting it very fine.

Some within Government want any potential euthanasia laws referred off to the Queensland Law Reform Commission, just as Labor did with its abortion decriminalisation.

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk will not give a guarantee any laws would be debated this term. Picture: AAP/Dan Peled
Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk will not give a guarantee any laws would be debated this term. Picture: AAP/Dan Peled

If this occurs then the time frame for the House to consider the issue will become tighter still.

Thousands of Queenslanders have poured their hearts out in submissions to the parliamentary inquiry.

The Government owes it to them to give them certainty that their words were not in vain.

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk would not give a guarantee any laws would be debated this term when asked during Question Time this month if she would.

The Premier needs to put her cards on the table.

Telling Queenslanders her intentions if new laws are recommended will not influence the inquiry.

It will give certainty.

If the Government does not act, then it might find it will lose the opportunity as someone else will move to introduce their own Private Members' Bill instead.

As Ms Bolton told Parliament last week: "This is not about politics: it is about genuine compassion for our people and their needs, not ours".