Putting our new VAD law into practice
In September 2021, the Queensland State Parliament voted overwhelmingly for a law which allows terminally ill Queenslanders a more compassionate choice at the end of their lives. From January 2023, voluntary assisted dying will be available for those who request it and are eligible.
Yet – there’s a huge stumbling block to putting the State law into practice, especially in a large state like Queensland.
The problem stems from a federal law, the Commonwealth Criminal Code Amendment Act 2005. At that point, no State of Australia had legalised VAD. It’s an offence to use what’s called a “carriage service” to counsel, promote or provide instruction on suicide. This means that clinicians who agree to provide this critical service, may face prosecution if they hold a patient consult about VAD by telehealth, phone, email, or any electronic means.
VAD is not suicide. But we can’t be reassured that in any court case, the Commonwealth would accept that definition of VAD. Commonwealth laws can over-ride the States’ laws, no matter how clearly they are worded. The federal government has made it clear that it has no plans to review this unwanted barrier to access to choice in dying.
Terminally ill Queenslanders have been waiting and hoping for VAD to become legal. This law creates a huge barrier to accessing VAD. It especially disadvantages rural and remote residents. People may well be too frail to travel to see a doctor in person. Further, this law creates uncertainty and legal unknowns for the clinicians who agree to be involved.
The Queensland VAD law encourages autonomy, compassion and choice.
- Would you like to know more about VAD and this unintended barrier?
- Will you show your support by raising this issue with your federal MP?
Please contact: Sheila Sim at [email protected]
Thank you for your support!
Dying with Dignity Queensland