Dying to know: Voters urged to seek answers before election
SUPPORTERS of Dying With Dignity (DWD) have been encouraged to speak with their local state election candidates about their stance on voluntary assisted dying (VAD), before heading to the polls next month.
A meeting was recently held in Bundaberg where attendees heard from DWD state secretary for Wide Bay Phyllis Wagner, Clem Jones chair David Muir and Queensland convenor of Doctors for Assisted Dying Choice Dr Sid Finnigan.
"Thank you all for what you've done so far to get us to this point - for the first time ever in Queensland we've got a draft bill," Mr Muir said.
"Submissions made at the parliamentary inquiry in Bundaberg had a big impact and was part of the reason that the committee recommended laws for voluntary assisted dying, so you've had a big part to play."
Mr Muir said the next few weeks and up until the state election on October 31, was a vital opportunity for voters who are passionate about legalising VAD in Queensland to ask candidates the tough questions.
"Over the coming weeks, it is absolutely critical that you seek out all the candidates here that want your vote - they want your vote so you go to them and ask if they support voluntary assisted dying," Mr Muir said.
"There will be some candidates who will avoid the question but the ones you want are the ones who are going to put their hands up and say 'yes - I hear what you want' and 'I'm not going to stand in your way' and even better embrace the whole philosophy of VAD.
"But if we don't get a parliament elected that supports VAD, you won't hear about this again for potentially another four-year fixed term."
Seven pairs of shoes were also laid out on the day to represent the number of terminally ill people who take their own lives each month, in a bid to end the severe suffering and distress they are feeling in and up until that moment.
"Figures have been brought out that show one to two Queenslanders with a terminal illness take matters into their own hands, usually in a violent or upsetting way," Dr Finnigan said.
"We need to ignore the political smokescreen which will come with a standard response from some politicians who will say that they can't give an answer.
"What we're asking is do you support the right for a terminally ill patient with intolerable suffering to be able to take control their own life … it's a yes or a no response and that's the question you need to ask."
Incumbent MP David Batt also attended the meeting while other candidates Tom Smith from the Labor Party and Ian Zunker from the Legalise Cannabis Queensland Party were unable to attend due to other commitments.
Despite the group's requests for the incumbent MP to share his personal views on legalising VAD, Mr Batt declined, saying it didn't matter how he felt about the issue, as he would be voting based on what the bill stipulates and how the majority of his constituents feel.
"If I still have the privilege of being Bundaberg's MP when any future bill is tabled and debated, the views of my consistency will form the basis of my vote - as it did for the Termination of Pregnancy Bill in October 2018," Mr Batt said.
"I have also already committed to conducting an official phone poll if a voluntary assisted dying bill is introduced in order to seek the views of the Bundaberg community on the specific details of that bill."
After previously delivering a community survey to each letterbox in the Bundaberg electorate, Mr Batt said people could still complete it online.
"The survey seeks the views of residents regarding many issues including education, crime, cost of living and voluntary assisted dying and so far, more than 500 Bundaberg constituents have taken part, with a summary of the results available on my Facebook page," Mr Batt said.
"As part of my survey I asked the question, 'In general terms, do you support voluntary euthanasia?' and 68% of participants have answered yes.
"'As always, if any Bundaberg residents would like to speak to me about any State Government matters, I am happy to listen and act."
During the meeting, Mr Batt said if he was elected to represent Bundaberg and upon receiving the legislation bill, if 80% of his constituents voted yes in the telephone poll, he would vote alongside them.
Labor's candidate for Bundaberg said the constituents deserve an honest answer to the question.
"I have made my position on this issue clear and consistent," Mr Smith said.
"Knowing the experience of watching the prolonged suffering of a loved one and the emotional toll this had on our family, I know how important this proposed legislation is."
Mr Zunker said he would be willing to issue his own survey but after speaking to members of the local community, he felt the majority supported legalising VAD in Queensland.
"I believe it is our right to have the choice to have VAD available to those that are in chronic pain (or have a) terminal illness, just like it should be our choice for cannabis for medical and recreational use," Mr Zunker said.
"It is all about compassion - no one deserves to suffer … let people have the right to die with dignity and end long term suffering."
If you or someone you know is struggling, please call Lifeline on 13 11 14. This crisis support and suicide prevention service operates 24 hours a day.