Premier calls for draft legislation on assisted dying

PREMIER Annastacia Palaszczuk has asked the Queensland Law Reform Commission to draft legislation allowing voluntary assisted dying for her government to consider after the October election.

The announcement followed a historic parliamentary inquiry in late March that recommended the Government legislate voluntary assisted dying laws similar to those in Victoria and WA.

Ms Palaszczuk said voluntary assisted dying was a "very complex and 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".

Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk. Picture: AAP Image/Glenn Hunt
Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk. Picture: AAP Image/Glenn Hunt


"There are also number of operational issues to work through before we can implement any kind of voluntary assisted dying scheme in Queensland at this time," she told parliament on Thursday.

"For these reasons, I believe law reform in this area requires further careful consideration.

"We did this for the Termination of Pregnancy Bill.

"I have therefore asked the Attorney-General and Minister for Justice to refer the preparation of voluntary assisted dying legislation for Queensland to the Queensland Law Reform Commission.

"The Queensland Law Reform Commission will report back to the Attorney-General with draft legislation by the first of March next year for the government's final consideration."

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Ms Palaszczuk said the government proposed approach was "measured and careful" and would be informed by the views of stakeholders and experts in the field.

"It is critical that we get this right," she said.

Committee chair Aaron Harper, who tabled the report on March 31, said it reflected the views of the majority of Queenslanders, who had often brought committee members to tears with the deeply personal and tragic stories of watching their loved ones suffer.

He said the committee had been told that a person suffering a terminal illness suicided every four days in Queensland and this consideration of suicide as the only option had to stop.

The committee, which had provided draft legislation drawn up by two experts as the basis of laws going forward, recommended eligibility should only be for Australian citizens or permanent residents of Queensland, and that only people with decision-making capacity be included, although people should not be excluded simply because they have a mental health issue.

It recommended further research into improving end-of-life options for people without that capacity by examining how their wishes were expressed in Advance Health Directives.

It said two independent medical practitioners should assess any person wanting to access the scheme, with rigorous systems in place to govern the prescription, dispensing and disposal of voluntary assisted dying medications, and thorough documentation and reporting requirements and protections from liability for doctor and patient participants.

Medication should be able to be administered by the patient or doctor, with the doctor to make that decision, the committee said.

It was recommended that people seeking access to the scheme should not have to undertake counselling first and that patients should not void their life insurance, funeral or health insurance if they choose to die.

And a review board should provide oversight of the scheme, mirroring Victoria's scheme, and the scheme should be reviewed every three years.

Advocates of voluntary assisted dying laws were disappointed the laws would not be dealt with by this Parliament and said it was up to Queenslanders to vote for MPs who supported a change next year.

Clem Jones Trust chair David Muir said the Premier's announcement today risked making the issue a political one.

"The aim of VAD laws is to give another option at the end of life to those with terminal illness causing intolerable suffering, so it is especially disappointing for them that action on law reform is now deferred to the next term of State Parliament," Mr Muir said.

"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.

"The Premier and LNP leader promised their MPs a conscience vote, but we have no idea if such guarantees will be repeated by whoever leads the government and opposition after October."

Dying with Dignity Queensland president Jos Hall said MPs and candidates should know that around 80 per cent of Queenslanders wanted the laws in place.

"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.

"Those who will sit as MPs in the next State Parliament need to know that VAD laws totally accommodate the views of those who do not wish to access VAD for themselves.

"No VAD law gives an open-slather right to VAD - they all contain strict criteria, safeguards, and protections including the right for those with personal objections not to participate.

"We need MPs in the next Queensland Parliament who are willing to stand up for the vast majority of Queenslanders who want law reform," Ms Hall said.

Originally published as Premier calls for draft legislation on assisted dying