Victoria’s dangerous VAD law becoming operational is a sad day for Australia

“It’s tragic that once again doctor-assisted suicide is legal in part of Australia, and we will strongly contend against any push for similar assisted-killing laws here,” Cherish Life Queensland president, Dr Donna Purcell said today.

“Victoria’s so-called Voluntary Assisted Dying laws have the pretence of being safe, with 68 apparent safeguards – but in reality there is no protection from wrongful deaths. The VAD law is extremely dangerous.

“The requirement for a two doctor approval is farcical, as two General Practitioners, neither one of whom needs to be the patients’ regular GP, can sign-off on VAD. There is no requirement for either of the doctors to be a specialist in the area of the patient’s suffering (e.g. an oncologist for cancer patients), and there is no requirement for the patient to be seen by a psychiatrist – which is crucial. Proper mental health checks are extremely important as depression can be a very big problem amongst the elderly, terminally ill and disabled – and can lead to strong feelings of hopelessness and wanting to die.

“Also, there is no requirement for the patient to first consult with a palliative care specialist to be informed of what pain relief can be offered.

“Of particular concern is that the only recommendation which came out of the Victorian End of Life Inquiry that has been fully enacted was the legalisation of VAD. The recommendation to boostthe palliative care budget was effectively ignored. The Victorian overall annual palliative care budget of around $120 millionhas not been increased in the last four years – in real terms  it has actually decreased by 4% in this period.

“The Queensland Parliament is conducting a similar end-of life-inquiry with VAD in the mix. One of the most startling things that has come of this inquiry so far  is that Queensland has a terrible shortage of palliative care specialists, particularly in the regions. 

“With our population there should be 92 full-time palliative care specialists, but we only have 38.4. People are suffering needlessly because of mismanagement and poor resource allocation by the Queensland Government.

“Doctor are meant to be healers not killers. Doctors should kill the pain and not the patient. Euthanasia advocates give the false impression that terminally ill patients have to suffer excruciating pain and dreadful agony. This is simply not the case, as the advanced palliative care available today means that every Australian can have the hope of a tolerable dying process.

“Palliative care focuses on relieving pain and keeping patients comfortable in order to allow a natural and dignified death at their appointed time. In the rare cases where the patient is not responding to painkillers palliative sedation can be applied. Good medical practice is all about facilitating natural death with dignity and peace. This is the complete opposite to intentional killing - which is exactly what VAD is,” Dr Purcell said.

ENDS