Too few Queenslanders receive quality end-of-life care, and voluntary assisted dying must be legalised to save the terminally ill, writes Kylie Lang.
Too few Queenslanders receive quality end-of-life care, and voluntary assisted dying must be legalised to save the terminally ill, writes Kylie Lang.

Quit stalling on euthanasia laws

As my dear uncle drew his last breath on Tuesday morning, his cancer-wracked body was pain free. He was finally at peace.

I'd said my farewells, kissing his forehead as he lay motionless in his hospital bed, and so had my father, stroking his brother's hand and speaking gently of childhood memories and living large as younger men.

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We wanted to believe he could hear us, even though he couldn't open his eyes or speak.

Uncle Sid was 84, and his passing could be considered a "good" death.

 

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Despite battling cancer for more than a year, he didn't suffer in the end.

We could not fault his treatment in the palliative care ward of Logan Hospital - thank you, in particular, to the nurses who were so kind and respectful; I don't know how you do what you do.

Logan Hospital, where Kylie Lang’s uncle died on Tuesday. Picture: AAP Image/Richard Walker.
Logan Hospital, where Kylie Lang’s uncle died on Tuesday. Picture: AAP Image/Richard Walker.

Not all Queenslanders are as fortunate as my uncle.

As the parliamentary inquiry into end-of-life care found in March, the quality and availability of palliative care is sorely lacking.

If you live in regional, rural or remote parts of Queensland, you're particularly poorly off, with a shortage of hospices and appropriately trained staff.

The inquiry found 70 percent of terminally ill people preferred to stay in their home, surrounded by loved ones, yet only 14 percent could access the high-level, home-based care to make that possible.

Given the "cruel and shameful" aged care system identified by last year's Royal Commission, it is even more understandable that elderly people wish to remain at home.

The grim reality, however, is that Queensland doesn't do dying with dignity as well as it should.

The inquiry delivered 77 recommendations for improvement, yet precious little has happened since.

One of them was to legislate for voluntary assisted dying, and like the majority of Queenslanders, I'm all for it.

When a person has no chance of recovery, why can't they choose how and when they die?

Voluntary assisted dying has been on and off the political agenda for years and despite increasing pressure to legalise it, as Victoria has done and Western Australia is set to do in 2021, Queensland is holding out.

 

Sid and Ray Lang in August 2019. Picture: Supplied.
Sid and Ray Lang in August 2019. Picture: Supplied.

 

Inquiry chair and Member for Thuringowa Aaron Harper couldn't have been any clearer.

"We believe citizens should have the choice to access voluntary assisted dying if they fit the strict eligibility criteria and if this is a choice made by them," Mr Harper said.

"The majority of Queenslanders who engaged with the inquiry supported the introduction of voluntary assisted dying and our recommendation to the parliament reflects this. This is now a matter for the Queensland Government to consider."

While coronavirus has created other issues to consider, that shouldn't make VAD laws any less urgent. And it's not the first time Labor has shafted the idea. It may suit Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk to keep stalling but it doesn't help those suffering, or their families.

Former union boss Peter Simpson's heartfelt plea in June to "go out on my terms" fell on deaf ears and he died in September, his daughter saying she watched him "waste away in agony" as his "dying wish of seeing Annastacia pass assisted dying" was denied.

While the Premier has asked the Queensland Law Reform Commission to draft legislation for consideration by next March, any proposal will then need to be introduced to Parliament and debated.

More time lost.

 

Aaron Harper says the majority of Queenslanders support voluntary assisted dying. Picture: Alix Sweeney.
Aaron Harper says the majority of Queenslanders support voluntary assisted dying. Picture: Alix Sweeney.

Disappointingly, Opposition Leader Deb Frecklington has been non-committal should the LNP win on October 31, saying she will wait to see what the commission comes up with.

The LNP has said "no decision should be made while the issue of palliative care is so poorly funded, understood, barely accessible and neglected".

True, the palliative care system needs fixing but that's no excuse for sidelining voluntary assisted dying.

Figures from the National Coronial Information System show an average of seven terminally ill Queenslanders suicide every month because they fear what lies ahead.

Things need to change, fast.

My uncle shouldn't be considered lucky. All Queenslanders deserve a "good" death.

Kylie Lang is associate editor of The Courier-Mail

kylie.lang@news.com.au

 

LOVE

Chief Health Officer Jeannette Young championing kindness: "It's so easy to be critical. If we could always start with that philosophy, just to be kind to each other."

The coral trout at Mr Percival's, Howard Smith Wharves. Classic dish with crushed kipflers, rainbow chard, olive oil and lemon.

Channel 10 ditching reality show Bachelor in Paradise in 2021. Make it permanent.

LOATHE

Queensland having the highest jobless rate in the country. Doubt it'd be this way if the Premier had opened the borders sooner.

More double standards. The LNP leader can't have dinner with property developers but Labor can be backed by unions.

Donald Trump now "immune" to coronavirus and wanting to kiss everyone. America's suffered enough.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Originally published as We all deserve to die with dignity so quit stalling on euthanasia laws

Sid and Ray Lang on Ray’s wedding day in December 1963. Picture: Supplied.
Sid and Ray Lang on Ray’s wedding day in December 1963. Picture: Supplied.

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