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Qld not-for-profit plea on assisted dying

Queensland assisted dying law
Photo: Not-for-profit plea on Qld assisted dying
A Qld not-for-profit healthcare provider wants the state's assisted dying laws to mirror those in SA, where faith-based facilities can decline to participate.

Queensland's proposed voluntary assisted dying laws could allow outside doctors to administer lethal doses in private hospitals that oppose the scheme, a non-for-profit health care provider warns.

While individual doctors will not be compelled to take part, Mater Board chair Francis Sullivan believes the proposed laws leave the door open for assisted dying to take place in facilities "in direct contradiction to their moral ethos".

"The proposed law will also compel Mater and other not-for-profit providers to allow doctors who are not known to our hospitals to enter our facilities to administer lethal doses to our patients," Mr Sullivan said.
"As the Bill stands, these external health practitioners are not even required to inform institutions, such as Mater, of their intent to enter our premises and euthanise a patient who is under the care of one of our own doctors."

Mater opposes the Bill, which is expected to be debated by state parliament next month, and is asking MPs to consider a number of amendments.

Mr Sullivan is asking Queensland MPs to follow the example of South Australia, where the law allows faith-based hospital providers to decline to participate in voluntary assisted dying.

Queensland's proposed laws were the subject of a parliamentary committee hearing in July.

The requirement for mandatory training for those participating in the state's scheme will prevent conscientious objectors from being forced to disclose their beliefs, the committee was told.

"Being forced to publicly wear those conscientious beliefs on their sleeves may expose them to discrimination ... in extreme cases may expose them to violence, and is actually a violation of their right to having a degree of privacy of thought and belief," Law Associate Professor Wendy Bonython told the hearing.

The mandatory training requirement instead allows practitioners to state "that they're not accredited and refer patients to practitioners who are", Professor Bonython said.

The hearing also heard of potential conflicts with ethically opposed doctors feeling compromised by referring patients on to access VAD services.

Phillip Parente, a Melbourne oncologist who initially objected to assisted dying on religious grounds before having a change of heart, said referrals were an effective way to ensure access to legal medical services.

"Just because you refer does not mean that you agree to what's going on. It's enabling access, and we live in a country that's non-secular," he said.

Mr Sullivan said Mater would comply with any legislation passed by the Queensland Parliament, but was asking MPs to recognise the "special character and ethos" of institutions like Mater.

"Our staff and patients, many of whom choose to work and receive care at our hospitals because of Mater's ethos, will be compelled to participate in assisted dying," Mr Sullivan said.

"Nurses and other clinical staff may be forced to handle lethal drugs and be exposed to the euthanising of vulnerable people under their care."

Under the Queensland bill, patients must have either a disease, illness or medical condition that is advanced, progressive and terminal.

Their condition must be expected to cause their death within 12 months and it must be causing suffering that is "intolerable".

If passed, an assisted dying scheme could be functioning in Queensland from January 2023.

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