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Euthanasia laws too "complex" to be decided before election


Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk has opted for more consultation and legal advice before Queensland looks to follow other states with voluntary assisted dying laws

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A parliamentary committee has already held extensive public consultations and hearings before recommending a draft bill be passed. Its proposal was expected to see calls for a conscience vote of MPs, which had the potential to reveal a split in both Labor and the Liberal National Party if it was brought to a head before the October 31 election.

However, Palaszczuk today suggested there was still a need for further consultation, with the community and health sector, “and we know that the focus in these areas on currently on addressing the risk of COVID-19”.

“Voluntary assisted dying is a very complex and it is a deeply personal issue, in which competing interests and views of Queenslanders and experts have to be carefully balanced and the lives of our elderly and vulnerable people protected,” Palaszczuk told parliament.

As the Labor Government did with its pregnancy termination reforms, the issue of voluntary assisted dying will now be referred to the Queensland Law Reform Commission. Palaszczuk will ask the commission to respond with another draft bill by March 2021.

That will put the issue in the hands of whichever party or parties win the next election, however Palaszczuk suggested it was a “measured and careful response” under the circumstances.

“The provision of compassionate, high-quality and accessible palliative care for persons at their end of life is a fundamental right for the Queensland community,” Palaszczuk said, without stating her own position on voluntary assisted dying.

The COVID-19 outbreak, which disproportionately affects older Queenslanders, had caused some MPs to reflect on whether attitudes towards euthanasia may have shifted or become overly politicised in an election year.

However, Greens MP Michael Berkman said the government’s response was “incredibly disappointing” considering it could have referred it to the commission and not the committee to be able to act on the issue sooner.

Berkman tweeted: “What exactly was the point of our 18 month Parliamentary inquiry (of which I was a member) with 4,179 written submissions from Qlders, 34 public & private hearings with 502 witnesses? The Committee has draft legislation ready to go.”

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