Religious leaders' joint statement on high-quality end-of-life care

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As the Queensland Parliament continues its inquiry into palliative care and voluntary assisted dying, Archbishop Phillip Aspinall has signed a joint statement on the provision of end-of-life care, along with 15 other Queensland religious leaders. They are uniformly opposed to voluntary assisted dying, and are committed to the proper funding and availability of palliative care founded on the promotion of human dignity, human freedom and the common good

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A Good Death: Queensland Religious Leaders’ Joint Statement on the provision of high-quality end-of-life care

Our Vision for Queensland

As leaders of religious organisations in Queensland, we believe that our society should be caring and compassionate, founded on the promotion of human dignity, human freedom and the common good. We believe that:

Hearing the Question Properly to Start the Right Conversations

We understand that some Queenslanders are experiencing extreme physical, mental or emotional suffering. When these people tell us that they think the best solution would be for us to help them to take their own lives, or even end their lives for them, we should be very concerned. To respond by giving them the legal and physical means to do so is to fail in our responsibility as a society on at least two counts:

‘Voluntary Assisted Dying’ is not dying well

Death is part of life. Dying well is an important part of what it means to flourish as individuals and communities. We maintain that ‘voluntary assisted dying’ is not dying well. We believe that the Queensland Government should maintain the current laws and improve palliative care for a flourishing Queensland based on human freedom, human dignity and the common good.

People who feel that they are a burden, or who already feel that their lives are worthless are particularly vulnerable. But we are all vulnerable to the suggestion that there may come a time when, no matter how successful and important we may be, we will become dependent on others for our care. We fear the guilt of being a burden on other people, the loss of control over our own lives, and the potential humiliation that can come from having to rely on others for our basic needs. How much more so would we feel this way if the law implies that we are indeed a burden, that we are right to think that we worthless, and that the right and noble thing to do would be for us to end our lives before we become a burden on those we love and on society? Such a law undermines the reality that we flourish both as individuals and as a society precisely in and through our caring for others and being cared for by others. In this, ‘Voluntary Assisted Dying’ affects other people’s rights, not just those of the patient. Human beings and human societies are at their best when they are involved in relationships of mutual love, concern and consideration, sometimes as givers and sometimes as receivers of such care. The law should foster such interactions, not undermine them.

Dying well does not mean prolonging life at all costs or living in pain

We want to make our position clear. We oppose the legalisation of any direct action specifically intended to bring about the death of a person. This includes the provision of lethal substances for that purpose or the administration of such lethal substances by any means for that purpose.

We continue to support the long-held moral and legal distinction between such direct intentional actions to bring about the death of a person and:

It is clear that these legitimate practices are not well understood in Queensland. Many people believe that the medical fraternity – or indeed their religion – requires them to prolong life at all costs, regardless of the burden. Many people also think palliative care is like euthanasia because the ‘pain medications will kill you anyway’. This is not the case.

As religious leaders, we commit to doing our part to support initiatives to educate people concerning:

We strongly endorse government initiatives in this direction. We believe better end-of-life care begins with better conversations about death and dying and how we can die well in ways that do not undermine the foundational values of our society.

We Support High-Quality Palliative Care, Education, and Better Conversations about Dying

The better answer to the suffering we see is to address the circumstances using the best practice available. We support all efforts to empower Queenslanders to make meaningful choices about their end-of-life care and to develop a world-leading healthcare system that genuinely takes care of people from the cradle to the grave.

Signatories

The full submission may be downloaded for ease of printing.

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