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Source: Brisbane Times
A parliamentary committee has recommended Queensland legalise voluntary assisted dying for adults with advanced terminal medical conditions.
The report, tabled to the Queensland Parliament on Tuesday, made 21 recommendations about how the state government should legislate voluntary euthanasia.
Voluntary assisted dying should be legalised in Queensland, the committee says.
However, it remains unclear whether Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk will introduce new laws before the October 31 election, because of the coronavirus pandemic.
The Premier's office said Ms Palaszczuk's focus was "100 per cent on the state's response to COVID-19".
The committee, chaired by Labor MP Aaron Harper, began its inquiry in November 2018 and accepted 4719 written submissions, held 34 hearings and heard evidence from 502 witnesses.
It recommended a person would need to be diagnosed by a medical practitioner as having an advanced and progressive terminal, chronic or neurodegenerative medical condition to be covered.
Access should also be limited to people with "decision-making capacity" and the person would need to be assessed by two qualified medical practitioners.
The committee recommended the state government review the scheme in three years to ensure legislation was working as expected.
Victoria passed voluntary assisted dying laws in 2017 and Western Australian became the second state to legalise the practice late last year.
The committee of MPs, three from Labor, two from the LNP and one from the Greens, found that, on balance, the Queensland community and health practitioners were supportive of legislating for voluntary assisted dying.
"Tragically, on average around once every four days, someone suffering from a terminal or debilitating condition suicides in Queensland," the report read.
"It remains an option of last resort for people to bring on the end of their lives. Most (62 per cent) of these suicide victims are aged over 60 and almost three-quarters (72 per cent) are males."
Television presenter Andrew Denton flew to Brisbane late last year to convince the Premier to introduce voluntary assisted dying laws before the next election, in case the LNP came to power.
Mr Denton, who became an advocate for voluntary euthanasia after watching his father die a painful death from heart failure, believes there is little chance of a conservative Queensland government pushing the legislation through.
Greens MP Michael Berkman, a member of the committee, agreed.
“The LNP has made clear they oppose VAD, and we can’t risk this issue being put off indefinitely if there is a change of government in October," he said.
"This is yet another reason why the Premier must recall Parliament and ensure it sits as regularly as possible this year, so we can all get on with our jobs."
Queensland Parliament was scheduled to sit this week but under new powers, the government pushed back the next sitting to April 28.
The new powers, rushed through earlier this month, gave Speaker Curtis Pitt the power to suspend sittings until September 17.
Even if the laws were passed this year, the committee said it would take about 18 months
to set up any scheme.
Former Brisbane lord mayor Clem Jones left millions of dollars in his will to drive a campaign to legalise voluntary euthanasia in Queensland.
Clem Jones Trust chair David Muir said laws ideally should be drafted and debated in the remaining months of this Parliament and not ignored until after the October 2020 state election.
"We recognise that the State Parliament has scaled back its sitting schedule because of the coronavirus, but other vital issues like VAD should still be addressed," he said.
"Queenslanders expect swift and bipartisan support for the passage of any new laws related to battling the current virus emergency, meaning MPs could devote appropriate time to considering new VAD laws."
Cherish Life Queensland said the state should instead pursue further resourcing for palliative care services rather than the "reckless and dangerous" legislation.
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