Next week the Queensland Parliament will vote on the Voluntary Assisted Dying Bill 2021. Queensland Labor made a commitment during the 2020 election that the Bill would be presented to Parliament as a conscience vote, and that is exactly what we have done.
There is a wide array of views surrounding the legislation, ranging from those firmly in support to those vehemently against. All views need to be respected, and individuals are free to make their opinions known.
I grew up in a largely Christian family, attending Sunday School and church regularly. My upbringing was within a conservative farming family.
When I joined the Australian Army in 2005 as a Medic I had little exposure to death and dying. As my training progressed though I had the privilege to nurse and treat people who were terminally ill and at the end of their lives, and to offer support and comfort to them in their last moments.
Many of the some 6000 public submissions to the Parliamentary Committee looking into this legislation expressed similar experiences. Experiences from the heart that they now carry with them every day. While it is a privilege to comfort a dying stranger, some experiences are mentally traumatic.
The Bill is explicit that a person must be of clear mind and make an unambiguous request to access voluntary assisted dying. No health care worker is to suggest or prompt a person to consider voluntary assisted dying. These two requirements along with all the other safe guards in the Bill make it clear and appropriate.
There are many views about why voluntary assisted dying is not appropriate, be that religious or moral. However, it is my opinion that they are all reasons why you should not ask for voluntary assisted dying yourself, not why someone else shouldn’t be able to make that request.
“Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven” (Luke 6:37 NIV). My upbringing taught me that religion is about your beliefs, not what beliefs others should have.
If I was in a position to be voting on this Bill, I would vote in support of it. This is deeply personal for terminally ill people and their families, and I firmly believe it is not the role of government to impose a religious belief or moral expectation on those who don’t seek it. When it is all said and done it is about respect, and respecting that someone may have a different view to yours.