Palliative Care Queensland

Opinion Column: Support palliative care not euthanasia

Opinion Column: Support palliative care not euthanasia

(This article appeared in The Courier-Mail March 23, 2021 and is reprinted here with the author’s permission.)

The role of nurses is, irrefutably, to help preserve life, not destroy it, writes Margaret Gilbert***.

The role of nurses is, irrefutably, to help preserve life, not destroy it.

We take an oath like the doctor’s Hippocratic Oath not to cause harm.

That is the main reason why the Nurses’ Professional Association of Queensland opposes the State Government move to legalise euthanasia.

The NPAQ fears the state government views assisted suicide as the easy way out because it has failed lamentably to fund palliative care. To

put it bluntly, assisted suicide is cheaper.

We believe euthanasia would be unnecessary if there were adequate palliative care services for those whose lives are coming to an end.

Margaret Gilbert. Picture: Annette Dew






Parliament is yet to see the draft bill, but we already know the proposed laws are cloaked under spin and weasel words like Voluntary Assisted Dying. Voluntary Assisted Dying is simply a euphemism for assisted suicide, or what Adolf Hitler called mercy killing. We believe it is not the role of a doctor or a nurse to terminate life or assist patients to commit suicide.

It’s obvious to us the Labor government and the LNP opposition are cowardly avoiding a debate with Queenslanders. Why else would they be agreeing to a conscience vote?

Former premier Campbell Newman was a strong advocate for assisted suicide and Annastacia Palaszczuk seems to be following his lead.

It is deeply disturbing that the Queensland Nurses and Midwives’ Union is supporting the Palaszczuk-Newman assisted suicide laws.

We shouldn’t be surprised. The QNMU has for a long time been in lockstep with the ALP. (Some of our members complained recently when protesters waving QNMU signs heckled the Prime Minister during a recent visit to Brisbane.)

Here I should point out that the NPAQ doesn’t give a cent to any political party.

Nurses should be told the truth. In some US states and in Belgium, mercy killing has been extended to include patients who are not incurably ill at all. Dementia patients have been dispatched even though they do not have the mental facilities to make an informed choice. How long will it be before Queensland follows suit?

Many elderly Queenslanders, who know they are ill and facing costly surgeries, will opt for assisted suicide so they don’t become a burden – financially or emotionally – on their families.

Extra specialist palliative care services would stop that. The government has known about the palliative care crisis for years and done little.

In 2013 a Queensland parliamentary committee was given evidence showing a significant unmet need for palliative care in Queensland, and that the treatment gap was widening.

That same year Queensland Health admitted our palliative care services were already stretched, with referrals to services increasing annually by 20 per cent. Funding increases failed to meet increasing demand.

Other reports show a modest 5.6 per cent funding increase between 2013 and 2019.

Our research suggests there are up to 71,000 Queenslanders over 65 who require specialist palliative care.

Nurses will be told by the QNMU that euthanasia is a solution. The NPAQ believes the opposite.

I fear nurses will be drawn into a legal, medical and moral maze that will cause great mental anguish. Nurses should not be put in the firing line.

Overseas cases show nurses will inevitably find themselves at the centre of court actions if they assist doctors in any way to provide lethal doses to hasten death.

Patients place great trust in nurses. That special trust will be extinguished if euthanasia becomes law.

*** Margaret Gilbert is a career nurse of 30 years and treasurer of the NPAQ.***

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