Australian pro-lifers to march against proposed assisted suicide law

Queensland March for Life Cherish Life Queensland Rally for Life, October 2018/ Cherish Life Queensland/Facebook

Pro-life advocates in Queensland, Australia will hold a public March for Life ahead of parliamentary debate on a proposed assisted suicide law.

The pro-life rally, organized by the group Cherish Life Queensland, will take place on the streets of Brisbane on Saturday, Sept. 11. The rally will precede debate by the Queensland parliament on legalizing assisted suicide for many citizens over the age of 18. 

The Queensland government had commissioned the independent Queensland Law Reform Commission to provide draft legislation legalizing assisted suicide and euthanasia, with a deadline of March 1, 2021.

Under the proposed legislation, Queensland residents of ages 18 and over would have the right to seek assisted suicide if they have received a diagnosis with an expectation of 12 months or less to live, and are enduring suffering they consider “intolerable.” 

Doctors would not be allowed to “actively propose” assisted suicide to a patient. Patents would have to be separately and independently assessed by two doctors, and must make three different requests for assisted suicide in at least nine days’ time, ABC reported. A review board for VAD (voluntary assisted dying) will also be established under the proposed law. 

In a letter this week, 20 prominent Queensland doctors - all former presidents of the Australian Medical Association of Queensland - warned lawmakers of “unacceptable risks” if the assisted suicide legislation passes. 

They argued that predictions of 12 months’ life expectancy are “too inaccurate” to be the benchmark for the new law. 

Teeshan Johnson, director of the pro-life group Cherish Life Queensland, said she fears that the bill does not provide adequate conscience protections for doctors opposed to assisted suicide. 

"The proposed law's compulsion on faith-affiliated hospitals, nursing homes and hospices which are opposed to euthanasia and assisted suicide to allow these acts to take place on their premises is totalitarian," she said.

"This would do far-reaching and irreparable damage to the already struggling Queensland Health system, as some of these providers, which account for around one in four beds in Queensland, may be forced to close facilities and there would be reluctance to open new facilities."

The bishops of the five dioceses in Queensland issued an October 2020 statement urging that euthanasia and assisted suicide not be legalized. They said that a peaceful natural death can be had with palliative care.

Assisted suicide and euthanasia have been legal in the Australian province of Victoria since June 2019. In December 2019, the province of Western Australia passed a law allowing the practices. New South Wales rejected such a bill in 2017. The Northern Territory legalized assisted suicide in 1995, but the Australian parliament overturned that law two years later. Earlier this year, Tasmania passed a law legalizing voluntary assisted suicide, which is expected to go into effect in 2022.

Catholic bishops in Australia have repeatedly written in support of palliative care as an alternative to assisted suicide and euthanasia. The state of Victoria reported more than ten times the anticipated number of deaths from assisted suicide and euthanasia in its first legal year.

"The sanctity of life is not about doing everything possible to stay alive for as long as possible regardless of whether there is any real benefit or regardless of how severe the burden may be for the individual, their family, or society. Rather, the sanctity of life is about recognising that all life, all of creation is sacred because it is the foundation, the necessary condition of all meaningful and purposeful endeavour,” the Queensland bishops wrote. 

"People need assistance - not to end their lives but at the end of their lives - in ways that they feel fully recognise their autonomy and dignity,” the bishops wrote.

In February 2021, an Australian university found that the country has less than half the number of palliative care physicians needed to care for terminally-ill patients.

A study published by Australian Catholic University's PM Glynn Institute revealed that the country only has fewer than one palliative care doctor per every 100,000 people. According to the university, health industry standards state there should be at least two doctors for this population.

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The Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith's September 2020 letter Samaritanus bonus reaffirmed the Church's perennial teaching on the sinfulness of euthanasia and assisted suicide. The congregation recalled the obligation of Catholics to accompany the sick and dying through prayer, physical presence, and the sacraments.

Samaritanus bonus also addressed the pastoral care of Catholics who request euthanasia or assisted suicide. The letter explained that a priest and others should avoid any active or passive gesture which might signal approval for the action, including remaining with the patient until the act is performed.

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