Editor’s Note: This article by Associate Editor Jamie Walker in The Australian highlights how concerning the push for voluntary assisted dying around Australia is for a diversity of communities. Is VAD the best we can do for the most vulnerable people among us? Or are we failing them by bringing in a dangerous regime prone to abuses?
Islamic and Jewish leaders have joined the churches in slamming any rollout of voluntary euthanasia in Queensland, the latest state to weigh the right to die.
In a joint statement, 16 religious leaders headed by president of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference and archbishop of Brisbane Mark Coleridge, former primate of Australia and Anglican archbishop of Brisbane Phillip Aspinall, president of the Islamic Council of Queensland Habib Jamal and Rabbi Levi Jaffe of the Brisbane Hebrew Congregation warned that voluntary assisted dying was “not dying well”.
“We believe that the Queensland government should maintain the current laws and improve palliative care for a flourishing Queensland based on human freedom, human dignity and the common good,” the statement said.
A modified version of the voluntary assisted dying (VAD) law that came into effect in Victoria in June passed the lower house of West Australian parliament last month, but faces a sterner test in the Legislative Council, possibly by the end of the year.
Queensland is at an earlier stage of assessing VAD, but its unicameral state parliament means the process will be smoother if an all-party committee endorses the need for legislation and the state Labor government grasps the nettle. This happened with abortion law reform in 2017, to the dismay of the churches.
Their effort to block euthanasia shows signs of being more concerted and co-ordinated. The joint statement argued that VAD offered a misleading choice: “You can choose to die horribly or you can take your own life.”
But Everald Compton, of the Dying with Dignity organisation and an elder of the Uniting and Presbyterian churches, rejected the religious leaders’ position. “I fundamentally disagree with the unreasonable position taken by my church and all the other churches … which is based on creating fear and misrepresentation what voluntary assisted dying is all about,” he said.
The religious leaders said the provision of high-quality palliative care was paramount, so that death did not need to be terrible or feared.
“High-quality palliative care is not merely a third option; it is best practice,” they argued.
“Queenslanders do not yet have universal access such as specialist palliative care that addresses the physical, psychosocial and spiritual needs of people.”
The statement said VAD would undermine efforts to curb suicide in a state with the nation’s second highest rate of self-inflicted death.
Other signatories were: moderator of the Uniting Church Queensland Synod Reverend David Baker, Reverend Peter Barson of the Presbyterian Church, Conference president of the Churches of Christ Geoff Charles, moderator of the Queensland Congregational Fellowship Dr Joe Goodall, state chairman of the International Network of Churches Pastor Gary Hourigan, Elder Carl Maurer of The Church of Jesus Christ and Latter-day Saints, Pastor Carl Mutzelburg of Acts 2 Alliance, acting general superintendent of Queensland Baptists Reverend Stewart Pieper, Reverend Rex Rigby of the Wesleyan Methodist Church South Queensland, Bishop Paul Smith of the Lutheran Church, district and state ministries director of Christian Churches Queensland-NT Pastor Gary Swenson.