Voluntary assisted dying laws delayed as more time granted to develop legislation in Queensland


The body drafting voluntary assisted dying laws for Queensland has flagged it may not be able to complete the work by its May deadline.

In the throes of last year’s election campaign, Labor promised that if re-elected, the state government would introduce voluntary assisted dying laws by February.

Just two months later, it has granted an extension to the Queensland Law Reform Commission (QLRC), which asked for more resources and time to draft the bill.

Now, in a review update tabled in State Parliament, the QLRC has flagged it may not meet that date.

“Although the commission has been very busy with this review, a large body of work remains to be done,” wrote QLRC chair Justice Peter Applegarth.

“The commission will complete this complex review as soon as it reasonably can.

“It hopes that it will be able to report and provide well-drafted legislation by its reporting date of 10 May 2021.

“However, the commission cannot exclude the possibility that its report and the requested draft legislation will not be complete at that date.”

In a review update tabled in state parliament, the QLRC has flagged it may not meet the May deadline.(ABC News: Natasha Johnson)

Commission members have been meeting more frequently than normal — once a fortnight instead of monthly — in a bid to get the work done on time.

The commission is required to:

  • Consult with the public and stakeholders and consider who should be eligible to access the scheme
  • Consider safeguards to ensure the decisions are made voluntarily and without coercion
  • Consider the qualifications and training of health professionals who may work under the laws, and
  • Consider the process of requesting voluntary assisted dying
A close-up shot of a 91-year-old woman's hand resting on her opposite elbow.
The laws are now set to be implemented by August 2022.(Flickr: jamelah e.)

It received 124 submissions in response to a consultation paper late last year and is in communication with participants in similar schemes in Victoria and Western Australia, where a scheme is still in its implementation phase.

The update said the commission recognised the desirability of “achieving reasonable consistency” with other states and with laws in New Zealand, but had to develop legislation suited to Queensland’s geography, population spread, and access to qualified health professionals.

“Legislation that may operate in a place like New Zealand or Victoria may not be suited to a large, decentralised state like Queensland, many of whose citizens live in remote areas,” the update states.

Queensland Attorney-General Shannon Fentiman, who tabled the review update, thanked Justice Applegarth and the QLRC for their work to date.

“The Palaszczuk government made a commitment to Queenslanders that we will legislate this extremely complex and deeply personal issue, and we are getting on with the job,” Ms Fentiman said.

“The review update identifies the principles that will underpin the recommended legislation, but notes that work is ongoing to develop a comprehensive legislative framework.

“While the inquiry time was extended, there will be a shorter implementation period of 15 months to ensure there is no delay in Queenslanders being able to have a choice in voluntary assisted dying and end-of-life decisions.”

That would see the laws implemented by August 2022.

A woman sits in a board room.
Attorney-General Shannon Fentiman has thanked Justice Applegarth and the QLRC for their work to date.(ABC News: Rachel Riga)

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