Politicians urged to reject demands for ‘institutional conscientious objections’ in QLD assisted dying debate

Si Gladman / 13 September 2021

The Rationalist Society of Australia and advocates for voluntary assisted dying (VAD) in Queensland are urging the state’s politicians to reject the demands for special carveouts for faith-based institutions.

With the parliament set to debate Voluntary Assisted Dying Bill 2021 from tomorrow, news reports suggest that some hospitals have been making a last-ditch effort to guarantee a right to ‘institutional conscientious ­ob­ject­ion’. 

Under the proposed law, faith-based hospitals or aged-care homes would have to allow outside doctors onto the premises to assess patients who are wanting to access the end-of-life option and, in some cases, to administer the drugs.

But some ministers within the Palaszczuk government have indicated they would be happy for changes that provide such institutions with greater protections.

RSA president Meredith Doig said that religious hospitals and aged-care homes should have to provide access to legal healthcare services – which would include VAD, once it passed the parliament – if they wished to qualify for government funding.

VAD campaigner Tanya Battel (pictured), whose petition in support of the end-of-life option has garnered more than 114,000 signatures, said yesterday that she was concerned that dying patients would have to be moved to new facilities if the government buckled to the pressure of religious-based hospitals.

“The current draft bill allows for conscientious objection by any healthcare professional, and we think that that is enough. But how can religious institutions or entities have a conscientious objection?” said Ms Battel, of the VALE -Voluntary Assisted Life Ending group.

“Our argument is that so many dying are too ill to be moved. Our message is to leave the current draft bill as it is, with no amendments.

“The bill does not make them offer VAD services against their wishes, but what it does do is not allow them to block access to an inpatient who may seek to start or follow through with the VAD process.”

This evening, a number of groups – including Go Gentle Australia, Dying with Dignity Queensland and Labor for Dignity QLD – will be holding a vigil outside Parliament House in Brisbane in support of VAD.

Queensland would become the fifth Australian state to legalise VAD, following the lead of Victoria, Western Australia, Tasmania and South Australia.

Si Gladman is Campaigns & Communications Coordinator at the Rationalist Society of Australia. You can contact him at sigladman@rationalist.com.au or follow him on Twitter at @si_gladman

All the more reason.