Thoracic physician, Dr Luke Garske and Professor Paul Glare, Specialist Physician, Pain medicine have warned that under Queensland's Voluntary Assisted Dying Bill 2021 an estimated 10 out of 100 Queenslanders who access assistance to suicide or euthanasia will end their lives based on a wrong belief that they have a terminal illness.
As euthanasia enthusiast, comedian Andrew Denton admits "there is no guarantee ever that doctors will be 100% right".
Dr Garske and Professor Glare explain:
The Queensland Bill simplistically assumes that doctors can accurately predict how long patients with severe life limiting disease will live. It requires two doctors to agree that a patient is expected to live for less than 12 months (compared to less than 6 months in four other states). It is known that doctors are very poor at accurately predicting whether you will live less than 12 months.
At least 10% of patients predicted to live less than 12 months would have still been living in three years.
If the Queensland bill is passed, we estimate that 10 out of 100 Queenslanders who choose assisted suicide will have done so based on the wrong belief that they had a terminal illness. In contrast, in the four other states, which offer assisted suicide when you are expected to live less than 6 months, we estimate that 1 out of 100 patients will have chosen to have an assisted suicide, based on the wrong belief that they had a terminal illness.
Is it acceptable for Queenslanders to have so many extra wrongful deaths, because of an arbitrary extension of an eligibility criterion that isn’t based on expert medical advice? Why is this extra 6 months even necessary, when the assessment process takes only 9 days, and we are supposedly doing this to prevent suffering at the end of life?
Professor Paul Glare, Specialist Physician, Pain Medicine
A study of 45 people who were euthanased at Ottawa Hospital for lung cancer showed that in 13 cases (28.9%) there was no confirmation of the condition by biopsy - an otherwise standard diagnostic procedure. In 10 cases (22%) there was no consultation at any stage with a medical oncologist to discuss prognosis and treatment options.
The time between diagnosis and euthanasia being performed was as short as 3 weeks.
Treatments for lung cancer have improved considerably over the last few years leading to a reduction in mortality and an increase in the five year survival rate which is now 21.7%, according to the (US) National Cancer Institute.
Deaths by assisted suicide nearly doubled in Victoria’s second year of experimenting with State-sponsored assisted suicide, with 172 such deaths in 2020/21 compared to 110 in 2019/20. Deaths by lethal injection also increased 45% from 20 to 29.
The 201 deaths by State prescribed lethal poison in 2020/21 already far exceeds the annual rate of “100 to 150 deaths” which Premier Dan Andrews predicted it would stabilise at after several years.
Deaths by prescribed lethal poison now represent over 0.5% of all deaths in Victoria. It took Oregon twenty-one years to reach that rate.
The State Wide Pharmacy Services rushes lethal poisons to Victorians with a State issued permit to suicide
In a legal analysis of Queensland's Voluntary Assisted Dying Bill 2021 presented to the Australian Care Alliance, Paul Santamaria QC concluded that if enacted it would manifestly fail to protect vulnerable Queenslanders from being led into a death "not by a genuine exercise of personal autonomy, but rather because they feel pressured to agree – or, worse, are actually unaware of the nature of the process being undertaken 'for' them".
In the Bill as designed, the risk scenarios of patients who do not possess sufficient decision-making capacity or who are not acting voluntarily are manifest.
Nothing in this Bill ought encourage diligent parliamentarians to believe that prosecution for unlawful conduct which has caused the death of vulnerable Queenslanders is other than the stuff of dreams.
Dissenting reports warn that the Queensland Bill is "fatally flawed" and will lead to "wrongful deaths" of vulnerable Queenslanders
Only the three Government MPs on the Parliament of Queensland's Health and Environment Committee supported a recommendation that the Voluntary Assisted Dying Bill 2021 be passed with each of the other three members of the Committee tabling individual responses.
Dr Mark Robinson MP warned, in a detailed 24 page dissenting report, that, if passed, the Bill would inevitably lead to wrongful deaths of vulnerable Queenslanders.
Mr Stephen Andrew in a shorter but pithy dissenting report described the Bill as "fatally flawed by its very intention to legalise assisted suicide and euthanasia in Queensland".
In essence the Bill would legalise the prescription and supply of a poison "in sufficient dose to cause death" for either self-administration or administration by a medical or nurse practitioner.
According to the Second Annual Report on Medical Assistance in Dying proudly presented by the Hon Patty Hajdu, Canadian Minister for Health among the 7,595 Canadians whose lives were ended in 2020 by the lethal injection of a deadly poison by a medical or nurse practitioner there were:
- 4,120 Canadians euthanased because they had cancer but with no discussion with an oncologist about this course of action;
- 2,650 people who perceived they were a burden on their family, friends or caregivers;
- 1,373 people who requested that their lives be ended because they felt isolated and lonely;
- 1,253 with non-terminal conditions
- 227 people who were put to death because they were frail;
- 322 people who needed disability support services but did not receive them;
- 126 people who needed, but could not access, palliative care were given access to the lethal jab;
- 59 people who the practitioner assessed as requesting a lethal injection "voluntarily" determined the alleged voluntariness without directly consulting with the person