Australia

Queensland government set to introduce euthanasia bill to state parliament next week

Queensland could become the fourth state to legalise euthanasia with the government introducing a voluntary assisted dying bill to parliament next week.

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk says the proposed laws are aimed exclusively at people who are suffering or dying.

She says Labor MPs will be allowed to have a conscience vote on the bill and indicated she will support it after witnessing the slow and painful deaths of her grandmother and uncle last year.

“I’m a Catholic, I’ve thought about this long and hard,” Ms Palaszczuk told reporters on Tuesday.

“I’ve had a lot of personal experiences in the last 12 months, and I have made up my mind based on what I have seen and those experiences.

“And like I said, this is a choice, and it’s not going to be the right choice for a lot of people, but it’s got to be an option for people, and far be it for me to make that individual choice on how a person wishes to end their life.”

Under the bill, people choosing euthanasia must have an eligible condition, which is either a disease, illness or medical condition that is advanced, progressive and will cause death.

Their condition must be expected to cause their death within 12 months and it must causing suffering that is “intolerable”.

Legally, patients will have to be assessed to be acting voluntarily and without coercion, aged at least 18 and be a Queensland resident.

Patients seeking voluntary assisted dying will need to make three applications over a period of at least nine days.

Health practitioners must tell applicants that they can change their mind at any point during the process.

A doctor will assess each application, which will then be sent to a second doctor, with the successful applications sent to back to the first doctor to proceed.

Health Minister Yvette D’Ath said medical practitioners would not be will be able to recommend euthanasia and would be allowed to be conscientious objectors under the proposed laws.

“So that, importantly, the individual themselves still gets to access that option, but respecting individual medical practitioners and entities may be conscientious objectors,” she said.

Ms D’Ath said a new navigator system would also be set up to help guide applicants and their families through the process.

She said that would help patients who were turned down by practitioners who were conscientious objectors.

“So they don’t have to go shopping around themselves and trying to find someone at what is a really difficult time for them and their family,” the health minister said.

The process, prescription and supply of a substance can then be chosen with patients able to self-administer euthanasia or have a health practitioner do so.

A special oversight board of existing authorities will be tasked with compliance.

The bill will be debated in September and, if it passes, a euthanasia system will be in place by May 2022.

Victoria is the only Australian state in which voluntary assisted dying is active, while Western Australia and Tasmania have passed their own laws

South Australia is also a step closer to having a voluntary assisted dying regime after the state’s upper house recently passed legislation.

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