History was made in Queensland last week with the passing of the voluntary assisted dying (VAD) bill, which will allow terminally ill Queenslanders with less than a year to live the ability to choose how their end of life should come to be.
In Australia, VAD laws have been passed in five of Australia’s six States – Victoria, Western Australia, Tasmania, South Australia, and Queensland. Victoria’s and Western Australia’s VAD laws have commenced operation. VAD will commence in Tasmania on October 23, 2022, South Australia in late 2022 – early 2023, and Queensland on January 1, 2023.
The bill was overwhelmingly passed by 61 of the state’s 93 MPs with Independent Noosa MP Sandy Bolton voting yes and both LNP MPs from Ninderry and Maroochydore, Dan Purdie and Fiona Simpson respectively voting no.
Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk paid tribute to members of parliament for the dignified manner in which the bill was debated and the historic conscience vote that enabled it to pass.
“This is a deeply personal matter and we have heard the moving stories that prompted members to vote in the way they have,” the Premier said.
“We got to this point after years of consultation with the people of this state and expert advice.
“It was not rushed.
“Queenslanders will now have a choice that I know many families wish they had.”
VAD will only be available to the terminally ill and their condition must be expected to cause death within a year and they must have an eligible condition, have decision-making capacity in relation to VAD and be acting voluntarily and without coercion.
Noosa MP Sandy Bolton stated that the bill was a vote for community and compassion.
“With polls and surveys showing overwhelming support in our electorate, the extensive research, consultation and reviews undertaken, as well the work over three years by two separate Health Committees, the right to access choice for those who seek and qualify under very strict criteria was voted in favour,” Ms Bolton said.
Both Dan Purdie and Fiona Simpson stated that they had concerns over access to palliative care and funding in that sector with Mr Purdie stating he was not against VAD but believed the legislation could have been strengthened.
“While I respect the outcome and recognise the community’s support for the concept of voluntary assisted dying, I don’t believe the legislation in its current form gives people a legitimate choice.
“One of our key roles as parliamentarians is ensuring the legislation we pass is the best it can be, and while I’m not disappointed in the outcome, I don’t believe the legislation and the current lack of palliative care services across my electorate and the state offers people a real choice,” Mr Purdie said.
Ms Simpson stressed the role of palliative care at the end of life and that the mentally distressed would have access to VAD.
“The bill will make assisted suicide available for the terminally ill up to 12 months out from expected death, does not guarantee equal access to quality palliative care services which are only available a few weeks or months out from death or not at all in parts of Queensland; and makes voluntary assisted dying/assisted suicide accessible to the mentally distressed.
“Pain is not a prerequisite for eligibility,” Ms Simpson stated.
Ms Simpson further stated that palliative care could achieve the right level of care and comfort from pain at the end of life.
“In accordance with my conscience, I voted ‘no’ on this bill and I will continue to advocate and fight for early access to quality palliative care services for the terminally ill to relieve pain and suffering wherever they live and whatever their bank balance.”
Deputy Premier Steven Miles said the Palaszczuk Government was boosting palliative care funding by $171 million over five years, taking annual investment to $250 million, so Queenslanders could have the very best, holistic care at the end of their life.
“Good palliative care starts the day a patient is diagnosed and will increase in intensity over time and as death approaches,” Mr Miles said.
“But for the very small number of people whose suffering cannot be eased, voluntary assisted dying should be available at that person’s request.
“These laws are fundamentally about compassion.
“But they are also about giving back control to people who have had their autonomy stripped from them by illness.”
More information is available at https://www.health.qld.gov.au/vad
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