Voluntary Assisted Dying Now Legal in QLD Despite Resistance from Catholic Hospitals

Catholic hospitals in Queensland, including St Vincent’s Health, which has facilities in Kangaroo Point and Chermside in Brisbane, have made their position clear against voluntary assisted dying (VAD), which has been legalised in Queensland and will be implemented on 1 January 2023.

The new VAD law allows terminal and aged care patients to end their lives at faith-based hospitals if they cannot be moved to another facility. 

In a statement to The Catholic Leader, St Vincent’s Health Australia Chief Executive Toby Hall said that the law is “a radical and dangerous undermining of patient safety,” that forces Catholic hospital providers to open their facilities for VAD, which goes against the “values and beliefs” of the medical workers. 

Mr Hall said that the Australian Medical Association in Queensland hasn’t backed the bill because of the “lack of protection for faith-based hospital providers.” The decision to legalise VAD has been “deeply unsettling and shocking” since 20 percent of Catholic hospitals provide beds for patients from aged care facilities.

The Parliament voted 61-30 to legalise VAD, the centrepiece of the Labor party’s state election campaign, despite some objections from the allies of Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk.  Whilst Victoria, Tasmania, South Australia, and Western Australia passed similar VAD laws, Queensland is the only state that included measures for faith-run facilities. 

Officials of St Vincent’s Health and Mater have appealed to the MPs during the deliberation of the bill, stating that palliative care was the best course for helping terminally ill patients. However, supporters of the bill said that this service is not accessible to most patients, especially in the regional areas. 

Accessibility to VAD will ease the burden for some families. Proponents of the law also created an oversight board that will review requests from patients and assessments from health officials or workers.

Doctors may also refuse to object to the VAD request whilst there is a provision for faith-based organisations to opt-out. Deputy Premier Steven Miles said that the law will respect both the rights of faith-based hospitals and the patients seeking VAD.

“These laws are fundamentally about compassion,” Mr Miles said.  

“But they are also about giving back control to people who have had their autonomy stripped from them by illness.

“It comes after decades of advocacy by passionate citizens, themselves carrying the trauma of having watched relatives die in pain or facing a traumatic death themselves.”

Photo Credit: Truthseeker08/Pixabay

Patients who request VAD must meet the five criteria:

  • have an eligible condition
  • have decision-making capacity in relation to voluntary assisted dying
  • be acting voluntarily and without coercion
  • be aged at least 18 years
  • fulfill residency requirements