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Friday, December 8, 2023

Queensland voluntary-assisted dying law debated in parliament as vote looms

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The Queensland Government won’t make any last minute changes to its proposed voluntary-assisted dying law. Instead, it will work with faith-based care providers who object to the Voluntary Assisted Dying Bill to draw up clinical guidelines to protect them from taking part in the system.

Deputy Premier Steven Miles is leading a parliamentary debate today on the proposed law, which would allow terminally-ill people to end their lives.

He will tell them a set of clear clinical guidelines will provide certainty for faith-based providers and other objectors.

“The Government is not proposing amendments and I urge members not to support amendments,” Miles told parliament.

“However, faith-based institutions deliver services that are valued by Queenslanders.

“Mater and St Vincent’s in particular are respected and important contributors to our health system and society.

“We respect and acknowledge their faith and the concerns they have raised.

“In recognition of these concerns and the valued place of these institutions in our society, the Government wants to provide further comfort to them regarding how the law will apply in practice in their institutions during the implementation phase.”

Under the VAD bill, people seeking help to die must have either a disease, illness or medical condition that is advanced, progressive and terminal.

Their condition must be expected to cause their death within a year and it must be causing “intolerable” suffering.

People must also be assessed by two doctors, having made three separate requests for help to die.

Faith-based providers will not be obligated to administer euthanasia drugs.

However, they would have to allow independent doctors to help patients end their lives if they were unable to be moved to other facilities.

Catholic providers like St Vincent’s Health and Mater Health are concerned staff could witness premature deaths.

Providers also warned that outside doctors wouldn’t have to give forewarning before entering their premises to help end the lives of their patients.

But Miles said clinical guidelines will set out how staff cannot be forced to participate in the voluntary assisted dying process.

It will set out how patients can be safely transferred to other facilities and detail how external doctors should engage objecting providers before entering their premises.

The guidelines would also set out how to afford patients privacy and limit any impacts on other residents.

The major parties have granted their MPs conscience votes on the bill.

The bill needs a majority of 47 votes in Queensland’s 93-seat parliament to pass into law. There is no upper house in Queensland.

Miles, Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk, Health Minister Yvette D’Ath and Attorney-General Shannon Fentiman support the proposed law.

Another 39 MPs support the bill, including three Liberal National Party MPs, two Greens and independent Sandy Bolton.

However, 13 LNP MPs including Deputy Opposition Leader David Janetzki and three Katter’s Australian Party MPs will oppose the bill.

Another 22 MPs, including Opposition Leader David Crisafulli and Treasurer Cameron Dick, are yet to publicly reveal their stance.

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