Development of the Voluntary Assisted Dying Act
Queensland’s Voluntary Assisted Dying Act 2021 (the Act) is one of the most thoroughly researched, analysed, consulted upon and considered pieces of legislation.
The legislation is the outcome of more than 3 years' work including 2 parliamentary committee inquiries and a year-long inquiry by the independent and expert Queensland Law Reform Commission (QLRC).
This work began in 2018, with broader policy work undertaken by the Health, Communities, Disability Services and Domestic and Family Violence Prevention Committee from 2018 to 2020.
In total 39 hearings have considered testimony, views and stories from hundreds of experts and witnesses, and more than 10,000 written submissions from across the state. Thousands of Queenslanders and organisations have been consulted along the way including:
- the general community
- clinical experts
- legal experts
- health and care providers
- religious groups
- unions and many more.
Members of Parliament were given a conscience vote for debate of the Bill. Many hosted forums and consulted with their local communities before the debate and voting.
Queensland Law Reform Commission draft legislation
In late 2020, the QLRC released a 176-page consultation paper with 50 questions for members of the public and organisations to make submissions on. The QLRC received 126 submissions from a range of respondents. It considered work previously undertaken by the Health, Communities, Disability Services and Domestic and Family Violence Prevention Committee with stakeholders and the community on voluntary assisted dying.
In May 2021, the QLRC released the Queensland Law Reform Commission’s report: A legal framework for voluntary assisted dying and a draft Bill prepared for parliamentary consideration. The QLRC’s draft legislation aimed to provide Queensland with a “compassionate, safe and practical” law.
Passing the legislation
On 25 May 2021, the Queensland Government introduced the Voluntary Assisted Dying Bill 2021 into the Queensland Parliament. The Bill based on draft Bill prepared by the QLRC.
The Bill was referred to the Health and Environment Parliamentary Committee (committee) for consideration. Extensive consultation was undertaken on the draft legislation during a 12-week inquiry by the committee.
The committee’s report was tabled on Friday 20 August 2021, recommending the Bill be passed.
On 16 September 2021 the Voluntary Assisted Dying Act 2021 was passed by the Queensland Parliament. The Act sets out a framework for a voluntary assisted dying in Queensland.
The new law was passed following debate and a conscience vote by Members of Parliament on the Voluntary Assisted Dying Bill 2021.
The principles underpinning the Act:
- Human life is of fundamental importance.
- Every person has inherent dignity and should be treated equally and with compassion and respect.
- A person’s autonomy, including autonomy in relation to end-of-life choices, should be respected.
- Every person approaching the end-of-life should be provided with high quality care and treatment, including palliative care, to minimise the person’s suffering and maximise the person’s quality of life.
- Access to voluntary assisted dying and other end of life choices should be available regardless of where a person lives in Queensland.
- A person should be supported in making informed decisions about end-of-life choices.
- A person who is vulnerable should be protected from coercion and exploitation.
- A person’s freedom of thought, conscience, religion and belief and enjoyment of their culture should be respected.
A range of safeguards are included to ensure voluntary assisted dying is only accessed by people who are eligible. These safeguards include protecting people from coercion, abuse and exploitation.
A fundamental safeguard is that a person needs to have decision-making capacity at all stages of the process. The person’s decision-making capacity must be independently assessed by two doctors.
The Act also requires that the person be assessed as acting voluntarily and without coercion, to be informed about other end-of-life options, and to demonstrate their choice is enduring.
- strict eligibility criteria
- a staged request and assessment process
- a requirement that an administration decision be made in consultation with and on the advice of the coordinating practitioner
- qualification and training requirements for practitioners involved
- independent oversight by the Review Board
- specific requirements for managing the voluntary assisted dying substance offences that apply where there is non-compliance with the law.
The Review Board will be responsible for monitoring compliance with the Act.
Offences under the Act include:
- unauthorised administration of a voluntary assisted dying substance
- inducing a person to request, or revoke a request for voluntary assisted dying
- inducing a person to self-administer a voluntary assisted dying substance
- giving the review board false or misleading information, making a false or misleading statement or falsifying documents
- recording or disclosing personal information
- failure to give a copy of a document or form to the Review Board
- failure by a contact person to return a voluntary assisted dying substance for disposal.
Voluntary assisted dying in other states
Queensland is the fifth state in Australia to make voluntary assisted dying legal. The following states have passed voluntary assisted dying laws:
Voluntary assisted dying has been available in Victoria since June 2019, Western Australia since 1 July 2021, Tasmania since 23 October 2022, and South Australia since 31 January 2023.