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D-Day nears for Qld's proposed voluntary assisted dying laws

Politics

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk has not ruled out last minute changes to the Voluntary Assisted Dying bill due to be debated in State Parliament from next week.

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Labor went to the last election promising to introduce VAD laws, developed by the Queensland Law Reform Commission and reviewed by a parliamentary committee. The government wants such a scheme in place from January 2023.

However, the bill may still be changed, either by the government ahead of its re-introduction or through amendment on the floor of parliament. One area that has been keenly debated is the right of church-run organisations, their staff and clients, to not facilitate VAD.

While doctors are able to conscientiously object to being involved in VAD, church-run aged care and health facilities cannot opt out fully, under the current bill, and would still be required to respect a resident or patient’s wishes in certain circumstances.

Asked today whether church-run organisations were right to feel let down by the lack of exemptions, Palaszczuk insisted she was “actually engaging with the churches”.

Palaszczuk said the bill would go before Cabinet on Monday and she would not speculate on whether or not there would be changes.

“Cabinet can do whatever it wants to do, that’s the prerogative of Cabinet,” Palaszczuk said.

MPs will be afforded a conscience vote on the VAD bill, which is the most sensitive legal reform since the Labor government decriminalised abortion in 2018. It is expected to be passed.

Palaszczuk has said she will vote in favour of VAD while Liberal National Party leader David Crisafulli is waiting to see the final detail of the bill before committing.

A parliamentary committee examined the current bill and last month recommended it be past, subject to amendments and directions that would protect health workers who facilitate VAD over the phone or video conferencing from being charged with encouraging suicide under Commonwealth laws.

The Morrison Government has refused to amend the laws and the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions has declined to comment.

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