Queensland parliament legalizes euthanasia, assisted suicide

Jonah McKeown   By Jonah McKeown for CNA

null / oneinchpunch / Shutterstock.

Brisbane, Australia, Sep 29, 2021 / 15:04 pm (CNA).

The Australian state of Queensland has voted to become the fifth state in the country to legalize assisted suicide and euthanasia. The state’s Catholic bishops had strongly advised against the legal change.

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

Patients will 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.

The bill passed by a vote of 61-30 in parliament, after more than two days of debate.

The new law will not take effect until January 2023.

The states of Tasmania, South Australia, Victoria, and Western Australia have also legalized assisted suicide and euthanasia. Queensland’s law will be more permissive than those in other states, however, since doctors will be allowed to approach the topic with patients, and nurses will be allowed to administer fatal doses of medication, The Australian reported.

A majority of Queenslanders were in favor of the legalization, according to opinion polls.

Archbishop Mark Coleridge of Brisbane sent a letter earlier this month urging all people of good will to sign a petition, which garnered nearly 3,000 signatures.

“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.

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. 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.

Victoria reported more than ten times the anticipated number of deaths from assisted suicide and euthanasia in its first legal year.

In a letter earlier this month, 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.

Ahead of its passage, Teeshan Johnson, director of the pro-life group Cherish Life Queensland, said she feared 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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