Queensland inquiry into end of life care

On Wednesday 14 November 2018, the second last sitting day for the year, the Queensland Parliament agreed to a motion moved by the Premier, Anna Palaszczuk "That the Health, Communities, Disability Services and Domestic and Family Violence Prevention Committee inquire into aged care, end-of-life and palliative care and report to the Legislative Assembly on:

  • (a) the delivery of aged care, end-of-life and palliative care in Queensland across the health and ageing service
    systems; and
  • (b) Queensland community and relevant health practitioners views on the desirability of supporting voluntary
    assisted dying, including provisions for it being legislated in Queensland and any necessary safeguards to protect
    vulnerable persons.

The Committee is to consider "the current legal framework, relevant reports and materials in other Australian states and territories and overseas jurisdictions, including the Victorian Government’s Inquiry into end-of-life choices, Voluntary Assisted Dying Act 2017(Vic) and implementation of the associated reforms".

The Committee is due to report by 30 November 2019.

Despite the wide ranging scope of the inquiry, if it follows the Victorian and Western Australian precedents the sole real outcome will be a recommendation for a bill to legalise assisted suicide and euthanasia.

The Minister for Health, Steven Miles has said he is “sympathetic” to allowing terminally ill people in excruciating pain to end their own lives. “I do know there are a small number of people for whom traditional palliative care is ineffective at addressing particularly their pain, so I am sympathetic to arguments in favour of providing patients with a wider range of tools,” Mr Miles said.

This is the usual rhetoric from proponents of legalising assisted suicide during the initial campaign phase. The focus is always on an alleged small group of people right at the end of life suffering "excruciating pain" that, they claim, cannot be relieved. This is a cruelly misleading myth.

Of course the actual legislation aimed at is likely to apply to much broader categories by using terms like "death being reasonably foreseeable" and, rather than addressing actual physical pain referring to "suffering" in purely subjective terms so that it can include existential concerns such as the feeling of being a burden to family, friends and carers.

The inquiry has not yet called for submissions but its progress can be followed here.

 


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