VAD bill welcome but better access needed for remote Queenslanders & those with long term illness

25th May 2021

Queensland’s proposed voluntary assisted dying bill is welcome but could be improved to ensure timely access for people living in remote areas, and to remove subjective rules around life expectancy time frames, says the Australian Lawyers Alliance (ALA).

“This Bill marks an important step forward for Queenslanders suffering from life ending illnesses,” said Ms Sarah Vallance, Queensland lawyer and spokesperson for the ALA.

“The ALA is pleased to see that a number of eligibility criteria have been adopted in the draft Bill. This includes a requirement that the person has decision-making capacity, that they are an Australian citizen or permanent resident, and have been a resident of Queensland for at least 12 months. The residency requirements discourage overseas and interstate travel for the sole purpose of accessing the scheme.

“We are concerned however about how Queenslanders living in remote areas of the state are going to be able to access the scheme in a timely manner.

“There is a requirement for the individual to make three requests and participate in two assessments with medical practitioners, plus have the final request signed and witnessed. This will be challenging for people with serious illness living many kilometres away from doctors and appropriate witnesses. Adding the capability to undertake some of these activities via video would help ensure access to the scheme is fairer.”

The ALA is disappointed that the scheme is limited to those people with life ending illnesses expected to cause death within 12 months. This means people who are expected to suffer long term with an incurable disease or condition will not have access to the scheme.

“Prescribing a specific timeframe in which a person is anticipated to die is problematic given that prognoses within medicine are often uncertain, complex and subjective,” said Ms Vallance.  “This creates further difficulty in navigating what is already a complex scheme.  

“The decision to adopt a specific timeframe is also inconsistent with the recommendations of the Queensland Parliamentary Committee.”

The report No 79 ‘A legal framework for voluntary assisted dying’ is available here.

The draft Voluntary Assisted Dying Bill 2020 (Qld) is available here.

Tags: Queensland Health, medicine and law