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Euthanasia blueprint handed to Palaszczuk government as end-of-life debate intensifies

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Laws for Voluntary Assisted Dying have been drafted by the Queensland Law Reform Commission and could be implemented by the government next year.

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After putting off a parliamentary vote on the issue last term, Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk made an election promise to fast-track the commission’s drafting of the laws.

However, the commission still needed more time, prompting the government to agree to yesterday’s deadline for the draft and instead bring forward implementation of any VAD regime to August 2022.

The commission also delivered a summary report to assist the consultation process, which is likely to start within days.

In a statement, the commission’s chair, Justice Peter Applegarth, said the draft laws reflected lengthy consideration of the strengths and weaknesses of laws in other jurisdictions.

He said the commission’s role was not to decide whether Queensland should allow VAD, rather the nature of any such laws, should they be supported by the public and the parliament.

“There is another democratic dimension that applies in a federation like ours,” Applegarth said.

“It is the notion that the states are ‘laboratories of democracy’ in which different policies can be enacted and tested in a state, as in a scientific experiment. If the policy is a failure, it does not affect any other state. If, however, the policy is a success, it might be expanded to another state. If improvements are made in that next state, they might be adopted in another.”

Attorney-General Shannon Fentiman is now required to table the report in parliament within 14 sitting days, to allow consideration by a parliamentary committee and broader public discussion.

Both sides in the debate have been quietly lobbying MPs, including party leaders, and there has also been renewed interest in palliative care resourcing.

Cherish Life Queensland, which has met with MPs including Opposition leader David Crisafulli, was among the anti-euthanasia and anti-abortion groups at a 3000-strong protest rally on Saturday. Federal LNP members Amanda Stoker (the Assistant Minister for Women), Matt Canavan and George Christensen were among those at the rally.

On Sunday, the organisation also finalised an e-petition to parliament, attracting more than 10,000 signatories calling for more palliative care funding and demanding consultation on the VAD laws not be rushed. While public surveys show a majority support access to euthanasia, or VAD, opponents consistently deliver larger petitions to parliament.

The major parties will afford MPs a conscience vote on the laws. While Palaszczuk has been advocating for change, and referenced the death of her grandmother last year, Crisafulli has yet to take a personal position.

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