Wednesday, May 26, 2021

Queensland Australia euthanasia bill is deliberately deceptive

Alex Schadenberg
Executive Director, Euthanasia Prevention Coalition.

Queensland Parliament
The Queensland euthanasia bill, known as the Voluntary Assisted Dying Bill, is overly wordy (113 pages) and deliberately misleading. The Tasmanian euthanasia bill (122 pages) had similar concerns. It appears that Australian governments think that the abuses and problems with euthanasia bills can be hidden by a verbose bill.

The deception begins in the first sections of the bill. For instance, Section 7 (1) states that a health care worker is not to initiate discussion about voluntary assisted dying. Section 7 (2) allows a health care worker to initiate discussion about voluntary assisted dying when talking about other treatment options. Section 7 (1) is intentionally deceptive. Health care workers can initiate discussion about euthanasia, so long as it is within a discussion about treatment options in general.

The Queensland bill uses the term health care worker, rather than physician or nurse. In other words, the Queensland bill allows a wide group of health care providers to be involved with the act.

The Queensland bill limits the act to terminally ill people but the definition is very wide. The bill states:

A person is eligible for access to voluntary assisted dying if—

  • (a) the person has been diagnosed with a disease, illness or medical condition that— 
    • (i) is advanced, progressive and will cause death; and  
    • (ii) is expected to cause death within 12 months; and 
    • (iii) is causing suffering that the person considers to be intolerable; and
  • (b) the person has decision-making capacity in relation to voluntary assisted dying; and 
  • (c) the person is acting voluntarily and without coercion; and  
  • (d) the person is at least 18 years of age; and...

The 12 month terminal illness requirement is wide-open. A person can refuse effective medical treatments and still qualify for euthanasia. There are many medical conditions that will lead to death if a person refuses medical treatment.

The requirements for euthanasia are subjective. The bill states that the person considers the suffering to be intolerable. If someone has suicidal ideation and wants to die, they will state that they consider their suffering to be intolerable.

The cause of death is to be labelled as the medical condition that resulted in the approval for death by lethal drugs rather than admitting that death occurred by assisted suicide or euthanasia.

It is interesting that under the heading - Residency exemptions a person who is not a resident of Queensland could be approved for euthanasia based on "compassionate grounds." Does this mean that Queensland is willing to become a suicide tourist destination?

The bill tramples on conscience rights. The bill requires medical practitioners who refuse to participate in euthanasia to refer a patient to a medical practitioner or service that is willing to provide euthanasia.

The bill requires medical practitioners who are willing to participate in euthanasia to be trained. This does enable medical practitioners who don't want to participate in the act to decide not to be trained.

Similar to other euthanasia laws, the bill is designed to give, in this case medical practitioners, the right in law to kill their patients. After the request to be killed is made, the decision to approve and then to kill is made by the medical practitioner.

Similar to the original Canadian law this bill allows euthanasia for psychological or mental illness, as long as the person is terminally ill. Since the Queensland bill focuses on the undefined concept of suffering, is this not a set-up to permit euthanasia for mental illness, a few years down the slippery slope?

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