Queensland legalized assisted suicide on September 16, becoming the fifth state in Australia to allow voluntary assisted dying (VAD). According to The Guardian, Queensland is usually regarded as the country’s most conservative state, but that didn’t stop an overwhelming majority of its MPs from voting in favor of the law, which passed with a 60-29 vote.
The legislation legalizes voluntary assisted dying for those who are 18 and older and who suffer from an advanced, progressive, and terminal disease with a projected life span of a year or less. The law requires that those who wish to die must still have their decision-making faculties and they must be examined by two separate physicians. They also need to formally request assisted dying three times over the course of at least nine days. The law is slated to take effect in January 2023.
The law’s passage follows an impassioned debate on both sides of the assisted dying question. Earlier this month, pro-lifers organized a March for Life to rally against the bill, while, according to The Journal, lawmakers opposed to the bill said that a lack of funding for palliative care would likely put pressure on patients to choose assisted death.
“Will this government provide a guarantee that people will get access to quality integrated palliative care services wherever they live in Queensland, when they have a terminal diagnosis, and not just in the last few months of life?” asked lawmaker Fiona Simpson.
Brisbane’s Catholic Archbishop, Mark Coleridge, decried the legislation. “Some kind of victory for the government but a real defeat for Queensland, a victory for death but a defeat for life. Now we await the dark spectacle of unexpected consequences,” he said according to The Guardian.
The former federal president of the Australia Medical Association, Steve Hambleton, also expressed concern about the bill, calling it “the loosest legislation in Australia with some significant medical holes in it,” according to ABC News. He appeared particularly alarmed that the provisions of the bill did not preclude faith-based hospitals and aged care homes from being required to provide VAD. “This legislation overrides all of their opinions and says you will provide this within your institution — nowhere else in Australia does that,” he said.
New South Wales is now the only Australian state that does not have legalized assisted suicide, although members of Parliament in that state are considering legislation that would change the law.
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