On the evening of Thursday, September 16, Queensland became the fifth state to legalise Voluntary Assisted Dying. MPs voted overwhelmingly to support passage of the Voluntary Assisted Dying Bill with 61 MPs voting to support the final reading. The Queensland Parliament has one Chamber, so VAD has now been passed in Queensland. This was the first time a VAD Bill had been debated in the Queensland Parliament. Opponents proposed 55 different amendments, none of which were supported. There were 30 votes against the Bill and 47 votes were required to pass the legislation.
Deputy Premier, Hon Steven Miles, ALP, managed the three days of debate with enormous respect and countered their many assertions from opponents by presenting evidence showing they were misinformed. The Deputy Premier opened the debate with the tabling of Tanya Battel’s 110,000 signature petition in support of VAD.
Queensland’s VAD Bill was originally drafted by Professors Ben White and Lindy Willmott, long term researchers from the Australian Centre for Health Law Research at the Queensland University of Technology. There are some major differences in this Bill compared with the South Australian and Victorian VAD Acts. These include
- Eligibility criteria state a 12 month prognosis for all illnesses, diseases or medical conditions (compared with other states where it is 6 months for everything except a neurodegenerative condition, which allows for 12 months)
- Faith based institutions may conscientiously object to allowing VAD but cannot prevent VAD providers from entering their facilities (SA has the same provision for residential aged care but private hospitals are permitted to conscientiously object; other states have no provisions for institutions to conscientiously object)
- Health practitioners may conscientiously object but must provide their patient with information about another service which can support them
- Neither of the two assessing medical practitioners is required to be a specialist in the underlying medical condition (similar to WA)
- Doctors are permitted to include VAD in an end of life treatment plan (similar to WA).
Former NT Chief Minister, Marshall Perron, and sponsor of the first successful VAD legislation in the world, told reporters during the lunch break “I’ve tracked every bit of legislation on this issue in Australia for the last 26 years and this is the best bill so far.”
Statements in support
During the debate MPs made significant statements about why they supported the legislation.
- Premier Annastasia Palaszczuk, “This is about choice. This is not about me or anyone in this House telling someone else what to do. This is about the choice of an individual to say how they wish to end their life with dignity. Dignity is a word that I hold dear to me. There is dignity in work. There is dignity in the family and the friends that surround you.”
- Deputy Premier, Steven Miles, “It cannot give people who are dying back their lives. Sadly, we do not have that power, but we can give them some control over the timing and circumstances in which they die: to be surrounded by family and loved ones in a peaceful, private space — their own home if that is what they choose — hands held, farewells said, tears and stories shared — the kind of tearful laughs and memories that make for the most powerful funerals”.
- Brent Mickleberg, LNP, “LNPs charter of “freedom of citizens to choose their own way of living” should be extended to those facing death.”
- Meaghan Scanlon, ALP, who lost her father to melanoma when she was 13 in a battle she described as "long and taxing". "This bill isn't about a choice between life and death — that fate has already been determined. This won't cause a single extra death. It will just ensure less suffering."
- Health Minister Yvette D’Ath said she noted thatthe eligibility criteria in the bill "probably does not go as far as some would like" and does not cover a variety of conditions such as Alzheimer's.
- Michael , LNP, commended the Bill to the House and described it as a “transformative and beautiful step”.
- Aaron Harper, ALP, “Three years of work and I think it was pretty emotional to come to that conclusion, but we are on the right side of history.” “We will finally give those suffering… the choice.”
- Michael Hart, LNP, “Ultimately, I believe in the right of people to make their own choices in life and now, I guess, in death. I checked with my electorate and they agree with me.”
- Tim Nicholls, LNP, “Why would a compassionate society deny that wish to someone already dying and suffering? Surely the most important focus for all of us is not how someone dies but how they lived.”
- Sandy Bolton, Ind, “I am truly blessed to live in a community where those that would never consider VAD for themselves would not deny the right of choice to others.”