QLD Introduces Voluntary Assisted Dying Bill 2021

Thursday 3 June 2021 @ 10.14 a.m. | Legal Research

On 25 May 2021, the Voluntary Assisted Dying Bill 2021 (Qld) (“the Bill”) was introduced into Queensland’s Legislative Assembly by Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk ("the Premier"). Following its introduction, the Bill was immediately referred to the Health and Environment Parliamentary Committee ("the Committee"). The Committee will have 12 weeks to undertake scrutiny of the Bill.

The Bill seeks to establish a voluntary assisted dying scheme to allow for eligible individuals to exercise autonomy over their end-of-life decisions. The Bill aims to provide dignity and choice for individuals who decide that they no longer want to continue with palliative care. The scheme is not intended to minimise palliative care.

The Bill also proposes consequential amendments to the following legislation:

  • Coroners Act 2003 (Qld)
  • Guardianship and Administration Act 2000 (Qld)
  • Medicines and Poisons Act 2019 (Qld)
  • Powers of Attorney Act 1998 (Qld)
  • Voluntary Assisted Dying Act 2021 (Qld).


The Explanatory Note explains that the aim of the Bill is:

“… to establish a legal framework for voluntary assisted dying in Queensland, allowing eligible people who are suffering and dying to choose the timing and circumstances of their death”.

In May 2020, the Queensland Government referred the development of an appropriate legislative scheme for voluntary assisted dying and preparation of relevant draft legislation to the Queensland Law Reform Commissions ("the QLRC").

In making its report and recommendations, the QLRC was asked to have regard for the following matters:

  • the most appropriate legal framework for people who are suffering and dying to choose the manner and timing of their death in Queensland;
  • identification of who can access voluntary assisted dying;
  • a process for access to voluntary assisted dying to be initiated, granted or denied;
  • the legal and ethical obligations of treating health practitioners;
  • appropriate safeguards and protections, including for treating health practitioners;
  • compliance procedures to ensure processes are monitored; and
  • adequate timeframes for implementation of a scheme if progressed.

The QLRC's A Legal Framework for Voluntary Assisted Dying Report ("the Report") was published in May 2021. It made a number of recommendations in regards to the establishment a voluntary assisted dying scheme in Queensland including processes and eligibility under the proposed scheme.

The Report also referred to a November 2018 inquiry into aged care, palliative care, and voluntary assisted dying conducted by the Health, Communities, Disability Services and Domestic and Family Violence Prevention Committee ("the Committee"). The Committee reported that:

“… the final stages of life can involve a range of pain and other symptoms and, for around five per cent of people, this suffering can be severely distressing … even with access to the best quality palliative care … sometimes not all suffering can be palliated”.

What is "Voluntary Assisted Dying"?

The Report defines that voluntary assisted dying as [on Chapter 1, para 1.32]:

“an end of life choice. As noted, it refers to the administration of a prescribed substance, either by self-administration or by a registered and suitably qualified health practitioner, with the purpose of bringing about the person’s death. It is based on the person’s voluntary request, and follows a process of requests and assessments”.

Comment and Reaction to the Bill

The Premier commented that:

“… the bill was underpinned by a belief by the government, that individuals who are in intolerable pain with an incurable condition, can be supported to end their life on their own terms … no person in Queensland could say they had not had an opportunity to contribute their voice to the debate, given consultations had taken place over a period of more than 12 months”.”.

In  commenting on the prior draft of the bill in a media release, Deputy Premier Steven Miles said that:

“… the draft bill allows for Queenslanders nearing the end of their life to have greater choice about how, when and where they die. Voluntary assisted dying is not a choice between life and death, it’s a choice for those who are dying and wish to have more control over the time and circumstances of their death …”

Health Minister Yvette D'Ath (“the Health Minister”) also commented on the original draft bill stating that safeguards were included to protect both those who seek to use voluntary assisted dying and medical practitioners and entities asked to participate in the process. The Health Minister said:

“…Under the draft bill , more than one medical opinion is needed. A person must have an eligible condition and decision-making capability. The draft bill also contains provisions for medical practitioners to conscientiously object.”

Leader of Katter's Australian Party, Robbie Katter stated his and his Party's opposition to the Bill. Katter said:

“I think it's just a moral crossroad in society, and we should be trying to save lives not take them. Everyone's saying it's all about choice, but I would say it should be all about palliative care and trying to care for people.”

A Parliamentary conscience vote on the Bill will be held in September 2021.

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