'Reduce suffering’: Advocate’s call for radical law reform
THE Queensland parliament has a chance to help end suffering for people nearing the end of their lives, Dying with Dignity Queensland's Fraser Coast co-ordinator Phil Browne says.
Mr Browne commended the Health, Communities, Disability Services and Domestic and Family Violence Protection Committee's recommendation to legalise VAD in Queensland.
The committee released its report on the possibility of VAD in Queensland at the end of March, following a 16-month inquiry.
Mr Browne told the Chronicle the recommendations would open up a legal pathway and compassionate choice for people not benefiting from palliative care.
"The current parliament must act on the recommendations to reduce the suffering of Queenslanders for whom palliative care fails and to reduce the suicide toll for people battling terminal illnesses," Mr Browne said.
The report suggested, on average, once every four days, someone suffering a terminal or debilitating condition took their own life in Queensland.
Mr Browne said such incidents frequently occur when the person was alone, and by violent means.
"Any reform would not lead to more deaths, but would greatly reduce suffering," he said.
Meanwhile, those who opposed the introduction of VAD told the committee it contradicted religious beliefs and went against the sanctity of human life.
They also argued vulnerable people could be coerced and legislation might not be enough to ensure all assisted deaths were voluntary.
The committee also heard during the inquiry, VAD would pose ethical problems for health professionals and send the wrong message to people contemplating suicide.
Mr Browne believes most people who would be eligible to use the law would choose not to, but they would have the comfort of knowing "they have other options."
"Most people would have had a good quality of life, it is only appropriate that quality is extended to death," Mr Browne said.
"Our legislators must act now on the inquiry recommendations and introduce and debate a Voluntary Assisted Dying Bill in this term of parliament."
Mr Browne said the report included possible safeguards that would give eligible people dignified options, while vulnerable community members remained protected.
Victoria and Western Australia have already legalised VAD.
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