Palliative Care Queensland

Voluntary Assisted Dying (VAD) Legislation Must Not Ignore $247m Elephant in Room

Palliative Care Queensland’s President Marg Adams and CEO Shyla Mills have renewed calls for the sector not to be ignored as Queensland Parliament’s Health and Environment Committee discuss the proposed Voluntary Assisted Dying (VAD) Legislation.

As an organisation, Palliative Care Queensland is neutral regarding VAD. While VAD legislation is being debated by many, the stark reality is that VAD is not the solution to the challenges faced by Queenslanders, their families, friends and loved ones as they seek access to quality care in their last days, weeks, months and years of life.

Ms Mills said Palliative Care Queensland, the peak body for the sector, did not advocate for or against VAD but it was vitally important that access to excellent palliative care was available to all people from the time of their diagnosis with a life-limiting illness, through to bereavement support for their loved ones.

“VAD will not stop the suffering of all Queenslanders. Just as palliative care, ICU, Social funding systems, human rights laws won’t stop all the suffering. Therefore, VAD must not and should not be considered in isolation. VAD is part of a much more complex and interlinked care ecosystem, and only through a holistic approach to care at the end stage of life will Queenslanders have a ‘true choice’”.

“Like curative treatments, palliative care can co-exist with VAD, but currently the focus is all on VAD and not on palliative care. For ‘true choice’ to be available for all Queenslanders, the Health and Environment Committee must consider the sector’s needs, urgent funding requirements, and the decisions that patients, their families, loved ones and care providers face. Only through an appropriately funded palliative care sector will ‘true choice’ be available to all, enabling Queenslanders to choose the care that they require, based on their location, situation and circumstances.”

“Sadly, palliative care has historically been poorly funded, and while we have welcomed the Premier’s election commitment of an extra $171 million over six years, it’s only an extra $28 million a year. It leaves a $247Million per year that we know is needed. We don’t think that this current investment will make much difference to most Queenslanders in terms of better quality of care or greater access to quality care when and where they need it. It will start to fill some gaps, but not enough to truly reform the system, which is what has been identified as needed in two Queensland Inquiries,” Ms Mills said.

Consequently, palliative care must not be ignored in the VAD deliberations. Addressing the hearing, Ms Mills outlined six recommendations to the VAD Bill 2021 Inquiry The recommendations are:

  1. Palliative Care Queensland’s recommendation 1: To ensure equal access to specialist palliative care and to VAD, the Parliamentary Committee make specific recommendations to the Government to fund access to specialist palliative care at a minimum to the same level as access is proposed to VAD in clause 10: “A person is eligible for access to specialist palliative care if – That person has been diagnosed with a disease, illness or medical condition that – (i) is advanced, progressive and will cause death; and (ii) is expected to cause death within 12 months; and (iii) is causing suffering that the person considers to be intolerable”
  2. Palliative Care Queensland’s recommendation 2: To ensure equal access to specialist palliative care as to VAD, the Parliamentary Committee make specific recommendations to the Government aligning the principle that “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” with PCQ, the AMA Qld and Qld Palliative Care Medical Directors Group’s specific funding request for an additional $275million per year.
  3. Palliative Care Queensland’s recommendation 3: Clause 5 (d) be amended to include the words “Every person and their families should have access to bereavement care from diagnosis of a life-limiting illness to a minimum of 12 months after the death”
  4. Palliative Care Queensland’s recommendation 4: S85 should be amended to include social workers and provide a definition of that activity in line with the definition outlined in S85 (5).
  5. Palliative Care Queensland’s recommendation 5: Greater statutory reporting requirements of the Attorney-General or Health Minister requiring them to report to parliament on the amount the Queensland Government spends on palliative care during the financial year, and the aggregated amounts spent by Queensland on palliative care during the preceding five financial years.
  6. Palliative Care Queensland’s recommendation 6: The Voluntary Assisted Dying Board be required by law to report to the Parliament every six months (as well as produce an annual report) and that this be an ongoing reporting requirement.

Read PCQ Full VAD Submission HERE

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