When approaching an issue such as euthanasia it is vitally important to assess what we really believe. As Christians, we believe -
there is life after death, a resurrection and judgment beyond the grave;
that we are called to care for the most vulnerable, the elderly, and terminally ill; and
in the inherent worth of every individual human.
Informed by Scripture, motivated by my own personal life experiences, and armed with strong support from ACL supporters, I appeared as a witness before Queensland Parliament’s Health Committee last week regarding the government’s proposed assisted suicide legislation.
Thanks to so many of you who participated in our email campaign, my advocacy was backed by the majority of submissions. Queensland’s Health Committee received 3217 against the introduction of euthanasia and only 2455 in favour.
My life experience makes the issue of euthanasia a personal one for me. Fifteen years ago, my sister Dianne died from pancreatic cancer. Seven years ago, my sister Karen died from brain cancer. Living in South East Queensland, the family were supported and cared for by amazing palliative care health professionals.
Sadly, not every Queenslander is afforded the opportunity for the same high-quality care that my sisters were given.
Queensland is unique in Australia, in that most people live outside of the major city. For those in rural and regional areas, the option of expert palliative care is seriously lacking.
At the hearing, I acknowledged the extensive inquiry the Committee undertook prior to the tabling of the bill and highlighted the clear finding of how inadequate palliative care services in Queensland currently are and how much needs to be done to make them satisfactory, let alone exemplary. For euthanasia to be introduced, prior to every Queenslander having access to palliative care, is a clear injustice.
I pointed out other injustices in the bill such as:
The lack of true conscientious objection for medical professionals who would be forced to refer patients to access assisted suicide, and for faith-based hospitals and care facilities who would be forced to allow patients to be killed in their premises. No-one should be forced into enabling any step in the euthanasia process.
The lack of protection for the mentally unwell and vulnerable. The bill even allows someone to request euthanasia by gestures. How easily can that be misunderstood?
The threat of a 7-year jail term for helping someone choose to extend their life, rather than end their life.
Allowing health practitioners to initiate the discussion of euthanasia - therefore applying indirect pressure.
With Queensland’s suicide rate among the highest in the world, the normalisation of suicide through this legislation is diabolical.
I presented statistics from Victoria showing the increased rate of suicide following the legalisation of euthanasia in that State in 2017, rather than the decreased rate that was predicted. In 2016 there were 595 suicides in Victoria; in 2020 there were 645.
After being presented by these statistics, one of the committee members responded with, “I put it to you that the numbers you are quoting are not statistically significant.”
Queensland’s Voluntary Assisted Dying Bill 2021 contains many flaws, jeopardising the care of the vulnerable and the conscience of health care workers. As followers of Jesus, we are committed to helping people die well. The final days of someone’s life should be filled with love and care, and with time to give serious consideration to what comes next.