Setback for VAD laws

Premier delays vote on Queensland voluntary euthanasia laws till next year

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Queensland MPs vote on voluntary euthanasia delayed until next year. Image: Shutterstock

Queensland MPs vote on voluntary euthanasia delayed until next year. Image: Shutterstock


Queensland Law Reform Commission to look at voluntary assisted dying law.


Terminally ill Queenslanders seeking legalised voluntary assisted suicide will have to wait until at least next year.

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk has confirmed her government will not legalise voluntary assisted dying before the October 31 state election.

Proposed legislation which followed an exhaustive 18 month cross-party Health Committee enquiry, will now be referred to the state's Law Reform Commission. The LRC will be required to report back to the Attorney General by March 1, 2021.

"Voluntary Assisted Dying is a very complex and deeply personal issue in which competing interests and views of Queenslanders and experts have to be carefully balanced and the lives of our elderly and most vulnerable people protected," the Premier told Parliament.

Disapointed advocates of VAD reform say it is now up to Queensland voters to ensure the next State Parliament contains enough MPs willing to make VAD laws a reality.

Chair of the Clem Jones Trust, David Muir, said "The aim of VAD laws is to give another option at the end of life to those with terminal illness causing intolerable suffering.

"The timetable outlined by the Premier also risks making new laws a party political issue at the October election when they are meant to be decided on a conscience vote regardless of any party's policy.

"We had hoped that a VAD law could be drafted and considered before the election."

President of Dying With Dignity Queensland, Jos Hall, said MPs and election candidates should know that public opinion was on the side of law reform - around 80% of Queenslanders wanted VAD laws.

"Many opponents are aligned with the so-called 'religious right' and don't reflect community support for VAD," Ms Hall said. "Genuine faith-based opposition should be respected, but opponents should not impose their views on others and deny those who are suffering the opportunity to seek access to VAD."

The Health Committee enquiry found that one terminally ill Queenslander takes their own life every four days.

"Unfortunately while governments can defer debate and decisions on new laws, the terminally ill have no similar opportunity to pause their suffering," said Queensland convenor of Doctors for Assisted Dying Choice, Dr Sid Finnigan.

Cherish Life which opposes VAD said it was disappointed that there was "any appetite for euthanasia legislation from the Government".

"It's also very disappointing that the Government continues to ignore Queensland's glaring palliative care deficit, with only one-third of the palliative care specialists needed," said executive director Teeshan Johnson.

"Such legislation is also particularly dangerous in a state where there is already a massive suicide problem, with the highest rate in Australia. Many jurisdictions where euthanasia has been legalised have reported an increase in non-assisted suicide rates too. The Netherlands, for example, legalised euthanasia in 2002, and its total suicide rate has increased by over 110%, including a rise in the non-assisted suicide rate of 10%. Legalising VAD would lead to more suicides in Queensland, not less.

Under the Health Committee's sample bill, eligibilty to VAD would be restricted to patients with decision-making capacity who have been diagnosed with an advanced or progressively terminal, chronic or neurodegenerative condition that cannot be eased.

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