Former Liberal-National Party member of parliament Jann Stuckey is urging Queensland’s politicians to listen to the views of their electorates ahead of a conscience vote on voluntary assisted dying (VAD).
In an interview with the Rationalist Society of Australia (RSA), Stuckey, the member for Currumbin from 2004-2020, said parliamentarians of all stripes should be prioritising the wishes of their communities.
While surveys consistently show overwhelming public support for legalising the end-of-life option for the terminally ill, she is concerned about the potential of anti-VAD campaigners misleading the public and about the possibility of some politicians prioritising their own personal religious views.
“I think when you look at the greater population of Queenslanders and Australians, they actually think that somebody should have a choice. If you’ve been given a death sentence with a terminal illness, you should be given a choice. It should be part of your care plan. And while you are lucid and capable of making that decision, it should be done in the company of your family, your medicos, and politicians should stay out of it,” she said.
“In a conscience vote…certainly religious belief can be among the considerations [for MPs]. But so are many others. And nothing could be more important than the views of the electorate that you represent.
“Unless MPs are going to really consult their whole electorate…you’re really not going to have a comprehensive view. If you only speak to lobby groups, you will probably find that groups like Cherish Life are quite forceful and have also run campaigns – unsuccessfully at the last election – on views like this.”
The Palaszczuk government has promised to present VAD legislation to the parliament next week, with a committee inquiry and debate expected to follow before a likely conscience vote later this year.
Last week, the Queensland Law Reform Commission delivered its draft legislation to the government and signaled that the proposed model would be different from those adopted in Western Australia and Victoria.
In a recent article for a pro-VAD newsletter, Stuckey wrote of her concern about the “growing interference” from party headquarters and some MPs that she experienced in what were supposed to be free votes.
In 2018, Stuckey and other centrists in the LNP came under fierce pressure from within for supporting abortion reform in a conscience vote on the Termination of Pregnancy Bill – a decision which she said was in line with the wishes of her electorate.
After her retirement last year, she publicly warned about the growing influence of the Christian Right in the LNP.
With religious-based groups stepping up their efforts against VAD legislation, Stuckey told the RSA she was concerned that “extremely evocative and very misleading” language would be used to influence the public debate and sway MPs.
Anti-VAD campaigners in Queensland have been long referring to VAD as ‘suicide’, warning of a ‘slippery slope’ and arguing that VAD would come at a cost to palliative care.
“It comes down to Christians actually respecting that a lot of other Christians – and I’m a Christian – support VAD. To pretend that this is against Christianity and to label it as ‘suicide’ is false and misleading,” she said.
“I’m a great supporter of palliative care, so [VAD] is certainly not to replace palliative care. But to prolong somebody’s life and actually withdraw food and medication and let them starve to death with their family sitting around them for days, sometimes weeks, just waiting for them to go, surely that’s not a compassionate God’s way for somebody to end their time on this planet.”
Hear from Mike Gaffney MLC about his journey of seeing voluntary assisted dying legalised in Tasmania when he presents at the next RSA Webinar on Wednesday 26 May 2021. To attend, register here.
Si Gladman is Campaigns & Communications Coordinator at the Rationalist Society of Australia. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter at @si_gladman