Premier’s anguish as vote set for voluntary assisted dying
Landmark voluntary assisted dying legislation will be introduced to parliament next week, with Annastacia Palaszczuk declaring the time is right for Queensland to debate and vote on end-of-life reforms.
An emotional Ms Palaszczuk revealed the state's long-awaited path to voluntary assisted dying would begin next week after the Law Reform Commission detailed how laws could work in Queensland.
"For many, this will be the most important work this parliament will do," Ms Palaszczuk said.
Under the framework, voluntary assisted dying would be available to patients who have a condition that is advanced and expected to cause death within 12 months.
They must have the capacity to make a decision around end-of-life choices, be at least 18 years old and reside in Australia.
Two medical practitioners would assess a person's eligibility and the person would be required to maintain a decision-making capacity through the whole process, which health staff can conscientiously object from.
However, should the legislation pass in September, the first people will not be able to access the service until January 2023.
The 15-month implementation timeline is similar to other states and will allow Queensland Health to develop training and establish "complex" arrangements.
Ms Palaszczuk revealed it was her own experience watching family members die over the past 12 months that made it a "deeply personal" choice.
"Having seen first-hand the suffering of both my grandmother and my uncle, it is heartbreaking and no one wants to see that," she said.
"This bill will give people the choice to end their life with dignity."
Government and Opposition MPs will receive a conscience vote on the proposal, which is almost universally opposed by church leaders.
However, Ms Palaszczuk and Attorney-General Shannon Fentiman acknowledged there would be deep-seated opposition to the proposal.
"This is a choice and it's not going to be the right choice for a lot of people, but it's going to be an option," the Premier said.
"Far be it for me to make that individual choice on how a person wishes to end their life."
It has been welcomed by assisted-dying advocates, with Clem Jones Trust chairman David Muir pledging to assess the detail of the proposal.
"It is about giving Queenslanders a better choice at the end of life if they are in intolerable suffering from a terminal illness or neurological condition," he said.
"A VAD law will not give open-slather access to applicants but will enable someone close to death and experiencing intolerable suffering to seek access to VAD in line with strict criteria, safeguards and protections outlined in the law."
However, Cherish Life Queensland Executive Director Teeshan Johnson said the group would campaign against voluntary assisted dying.
"There is a lot of opposition to the legalisation of assisted suicide in Queensland, and our small army of supporters will do our best to protect life at the end of life and push for an increase to palliative care funding in line with Palliative Care Queensland's recommendation of an extra $275m per year," she said.
The draft laws will be introduced to parliament next week before being sent to the Health Committee for consideration and consultation.
Parliament will debate and vote on a final proposal in September, which Ms Palaszczuk acknowledged may look different to the Law Reform Commission's proposal.
Health Minister Yvette D'Ath said there would be safeguards in place to protect those who seek to use the end-of-life option and medical practitioners asked to participate in the process.
"Under the draft laws, more than one medical opinion is needed and there are requirements around eligibility and decision-making capability as well as provisions for medical practitioners to conscientiously object," she said.
Ms D'Ath said a medical practitioner could not proactively recommend voluntary assisted dying, but information must be provided if a patient inquires.
A centralised system would then put a patient in contact with another health professional willing to assist, "so they don't have to go shopping around themselves", she said.
Ms Fentiman said there would be further "significant consultation", and
encouraged Queenslanders to have a say through the committee process.
Opposition Leader David Crisafulli said he would "look at the legislation in detail".
"It is a serious issue and it matters to people," he said.
"There are passionate views on both sides of it and we owe it to everybody to study the legislation in detail."
Archbishop of Brisbane Mark Coleridge said it was "extraordinary" that the Government was prepared to spend so mnayresources on legislation that affected so few rather than spend on proper palliative care which affected so many.
"But the focus on palliative care has been lost amid the haste to introduce euthanasia," he said.
"That leaves those Queenslanders without the dignified end to their life that they deserve. Instead of being offered palliativecare, they will be offered death."
Originally published as Premier's personal anguish as vote set for voluntary assisted dying