Bishop urges Queenslanders to oppose euthanasia, assisted suicide bill

Jonah McKeown   By Jonah McKeown for CNA

Credit: / Shutterstock. / null

Brisbane, Australia, Sep 2, 2021 / 16:00 pm (CNA).

Catholics in Australia’s Queensland state are being urged to sign a petition asking the parliament not to pass a bill that would allow for euthanasia and assisted suicide.

The parliament of Queensland is set to debate the bill later this month.

Archbishop Mark Coleridge of Brisbane sent a letter this week urging all people of good will to sign the petition, which has about 1,300 signatures so far.

“These laws, if passed, will overturn foundational principles that have underpinned our medical and legal systems for centuries – the ethic of ‘do no harm’ and the prohibition on killing,” Archbishop Coleridge wrote.

“We need to do all we can to protect Queenslanders rather than assist them in dying.”

Pro-life advocates in Queensland are set to hold a public March for Life ahead of the parliamentary debate.

Under the proposed legislation, Queensland residents of ages 18 and over would have the right to seek euthanasia or assisted suicide if they have received a diagnosis with an expectation of 12 months or less to live, and are enduring suffering they consider “intolerable.”

Doctors would not be allowed to “actively propose” euthanasia or assisted suicide to a patient. Patients would have to be separately and independently assessed by two doctors, and must make three different requests for euthanasia or assisted suicide in at least nine days’ time, ABC reported. A review board for euthanasia and assisted suicide would also be established under the proposed law.

The Catholic Church supports, rather than assisted suicide or euthanasia, palliative care, which means seeking to accompany a patient towards the end of their lives with methods such as pain management, and not to accelerate the process of death. Catholic bishops in Australia have repeatedly written in support of palliative care as an alternative to assisted suicide and euthanasia.

The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith’s September 2020 letter Samaritanus bonus reaffirmed the Church’s perennial teaching on the sinfulness of euthanasia and assisted suicide. The congregation recalled the obligation of Catholics to accompany the sick and dying through prayer, physical presence, and the sacraments.

In February 2021, an Australian university found that the country has less than half the number of palliative care physicians needed to care for terminally-ill patients.

Assisted suicide and euthanasia have been legal in the Australian province of Victoria since June 2019. In December 2019, the province of Western Australia passed a law allowing the practices. New South Wales rejected such a bill in 2017. The Northern Territory legalized assisted suicide in 1995, but the Australian parliament overturned that law two years later. Earlier this year, Tasmania passed a law legalizing euthanasia and assisted suicide, which is expected to go into effect in 2022.

An opposing petition in favor of the euthanasia and assisted suicide bill has about 112,000 signatures and was started by Tanya Battel, who has terminal breast cancer.

“This should not be about politics or religion. This is about the terminally ill who want the peace of mind that this legislation brings,” she said, as reported by the Australian Associated Press.

“You don’t walk in my shoes. It shouldn’t be your personal choice that dictates how I will die from a disease that’s killing me, not you.”

In a letter this week, 20 Queensland doctors – all former presidents of the Australian Medical Association of Queensland – warned lawmakers of “unacceptable risks” if the euthanasia and assisted suicide legislation passes.

They argued that predictions of 12 months’ life expectancy are “too inaccurate” to be the benchmark for the new law.

Teeshan Johnson, director of the pro-life group Cherish Life Queensland, said she fears that the bill does not provide adequate conscience protections for doctors opposed to euthanasia and  assisted suicide.

“The proposed law’s compulsion on faith-affiliated hospitals, nursing homes and hospices which are opposed to euthanasia and assisted suicide to allow these acts to take place on their premises is totalitarian,” she said.

“This would do far-reaching and irreparable damage to the already struggling Queensland Health system, as some of these providers, which account for around one in four beds in Queensland, may be forced to close facilities and there would be reluctance to open new facilities.”

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