Today’s announcement that Queensland is a step closer to euthanasia is unsurprising but deeply disappointing.
We join with the many medical professionals who say we should do all we can to protect Queenslanders rather than assist them in dying.
The State Government talks about providing “choices” for Queenslanders but the truth is that very few regional, rural and remote Queenslanders have a choice because of the dire underfunding and lack of availability of palliative care.
It’s extraordinary that the Government is prepared to spend so much time, energy and resources on legislation that affects so few rather than spend on proper palliative care which affects so many. Such spending would be a small part of the State health budget.
But the focus on palliative care has been lost amid the haste to introduce euthanasia.
That leaves those Queenslanders without the dignified end to their life that they deserve. Instead of being offered palliative care, they will be offered death.
Serious questions remain about the consultation of Queensland’s First Nations people. We say they should have a voice, and they are speaking on this, but the State Government hasn’t listened.
This announcement also comes at a time when the State continues to discuss reducing our devastating suicide rate. That’s a difficult message to promote when the State Government is also paving the way for Queenslanders to take their own lives, with a law that says suicide is an acceptable option, with even a medico to assist.
As with any new laws, there will be those who look to exploit them.
The risk of elder abuse and the vulnerability of Queenslanders with disability will increase despite the promise of so-called “safeguards”.
There will be exposure for aged-care and healthcare providers unless the legislation includes conscientious objector provisions for individuals and institutions. In some rural and remote parts of Queensland, faith-based organisations are the only providers of care for the elderly. They should not be forced into assisting in the deaths of their residents.
We urge thorough and informed debate on the proposed legislation with all sectors of the community; and we hope there will eventually be a genuine conscience vote, with the consciences of the 93 parliamentarians properly formed.
The Most Reverend Mark Coleridge
Archbishop of Brisbane