Queensland Liberal National Party leader David Crisafulli will vote against the voluntary-assisted dying bill because it does not guarantee the option of high-quality palliative care for terminally ill patients.
Mr Crisafulli has been coy on his position in the lead-up to Tuesday’s parliamentary debate on the bill, which would allow terminally ill patients to end their lives.
Under the proposed VAD laws, people seeking help to die must have a disease, illness or medical condition that is advanced, progressive and terminal.
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Their condition must be expected to cause their death within a year, and it must be causing “intolerable” suffering.
People must also be assessed by two doctors after making three separate requests for help to die.
Mr Crisafulli says that without adequate palliative care in the state, the law will not give people a truly “free choice” between accessing care or ending their lives.
“I can’t support something that offers the assistance of the state to terminate their life – the same state that does not give them the option of specialist palliative care in the same timeframe,” the LNP leader told parliament.
“Mr Speaker, I will not be supporting this bill.”
Deputy Opposition Leader David Janetzki also opposes the bill, saying the state needs to significantly boost palliative-care funding and protect conscientious objectors.
Mr Janetzki has moved 54 amendments to the bill, which he said would improve safeguards and reporting processes.
“We in this House have a heavy obligation to Queenslanders in relation to this bill, let us not be derelict in our duty to discharge it,” he said.
Health Minister Yvette D’Ath said one of Mr Janetzki’s proposed amendments was to include people with neurological disorders like Alzheimer’s disease under the scheme.
She supported the intention, but said it would be too hard to assess the cognitive capability of a person with that disease, and determine how long they had left to live.
“I understand that disease because my mother died … of Alzheimer’s,” Ms D’Ath said.
She said the government would invest $250 million per year in palliative care by 2025/26 to ensure people had true choice.
Deputy Premier Steven Miles said there would be guidelines to protect conscientious objectors from taking part in the scheme.
He said the bill should pass without any amendments and it will ensure some terminal people do not die in pain.
“Their death will be no less tragic, their family will mourn them no more or less, the law won’t change that,” Mr Miles said.
“It will certainly help some people, we hope, ease their suffering before their inevitable death.
“For me, I don’t know if the loved ones I’ve seen suffer at the end of their lives would have wanted access to (assisted dying). I would like them to have known they had a choice.”
The major parties have granted their MPs conscience votes on the bill.
The bill needs a majority of 47 votes in Queensland’s 93-seat parliament to pass into law. There is no upper house in Queensland.
Mr Miles, Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk, Health Minister Yvette D’Ath and Attorney-General Shannon Fentiman all support the proposed law.
Another 39 MPs support the bill, including three Liberal National Party MPs, two Greens and independent Sandy Bolton.
However, 15 LNP MPs including Mr Crisafulli and Mr Janetzki and three Katter’s Australian Party MPs will oppose the bill.
Another 22 MPs, including Treasurer Cameron Dick, are yet to publicly reveal their stance.
© AAP 2021