Tony Perrett and Denise Kapernick
Tony Perrett and Denise Kapernick

Voluntary assisted dying: Yes or no, Mr Perrett?

DESPITE numerous polls showing an overwhelming majority of Queenslanders support Voluntary Assisted Dying (VAD) in some form, Queensland Liberal National MPs continue to oppose this option, or refuse to declare their stance ahead of the upcoming state election.

This non-committal, "it's complicated" response by LNP members is beyond frustrating. It really isn't complicated at all!

Tony Perrett MP, Member for Gympie, has followed the template response many other LNP parliamentarians have been sending out to their constituents, stating he cannot make a commitment without first seeing the details of the proposed bill currently being drafted by the Queensland Law Reform Commission.

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The findings from the 16-month long Queensland Parliamentary Inquiry into End of Life Choices were published in March this year, with strong recommendations for a VAD option. This extensive Inquiry received nearly 5000 submissions and heard from hundreds of people at the 41 public hearings across the state, with 21 recommendations put forward by the committee.

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Considering this report has now been available for five months, every Queensland MP has had plenty of time to read the report and consider the recommendations put forward.

So why do our LNP members continue to state they cannot declare their support or opposition?

Simply stating, "I believe it is a fundamental right for a terminally ill person to have control over their dying" or, "I believe no person has the right to end their own life, regardless of the circumstances" isn't hard at all.

SUFFERING: Barry Langbecker with his daughter Denise Kapernick and granddaughter Emil and his dog Bonn - this was the last day Barry was able to be wheeled outside as he wasn't able to be hoisted into a wheelchair again because his pain levels were unmanageable. He needed top-ups of morphine so the nurses could clean him or tend to his bedsores. Even cutting his fingernails brought him to tears.
SUFFERING: Barry Langbecker with his daughter Denise Kapernick and granddaughter Emil and his dog Bonn - this was the last day Barry was able to be wheeled outside as he wasn't able to be hoisted into a wheelchair again because his pain levels were unmanageable. He needed top-ups of morphine so the nurses could clean him or tend to his bedsores. Even cutting his fingernails brought him to tears.

These statements do not commit you to voting yes or no once the bill is tabled, but it does allow the voting public to know whether their chosen candidate supports their views on such an important matter before the October state election.

Many Labor and Independents have already stated their support, but the LNP has stuck to their "it's complicated" response.

To add fuel to the fire, Jan Stuckey, retiring LNP member for Currumbin, recently stated LNP MPs were actively told not to meet with people on topical issues, with the directive coming straight from Deb Frecklington's office.

This aligns with ex-LNP president David Hutchison's statement that any LNP members who support VAD "will have to answer to their preselectors" (Courier Mail, December 6, 2019). Stuckey tended her resignation early this year, lashing the LNP for internal bullying after crossing the floor and supporting the decriminalisation of abortion against party policy. Although Deb Frecklington has indicated a conscience vote on VAD, it is clear the LNP are ruled by the religious right and any member will face severe consequences if they do not toe the party line. It is also clear the LNP will shelve any VAD reforms if they win the 2020 election.

Member for Gympie Tony Perrett - Picture: Shane Zahner
Member for Gympie Tony Perrett - Picture: Shane Zahner

Opposers of VAD use emotive language such as "suicide" and "killing" or insisting they are protecting the vulnerable. They also believe only God has the right to give and take life.

Firstly, suicide and voluntary assisted dying are two completely different matters.

One is a lonely, desperate, often violent and impulsive act to end one's life, generally due to mental illness. The other is giving a person (who is already dying) the choice to end their suffering, in a controlled and dignified environment, in the company of their loved ones and at a time of their choosing.

Secondly, nobody else can request VAD on someone else's behalf.

Only the terminally ill person themselves can request this option. It is completely voluntary, so anyone who does not want it does not have to choose it, but this option should not be denied to those who do want it. Forcing someone to die badly is not only cruel, but also completely unnecessary. We treat our pets with more compassion.

AUGUST 12, 2020. Queensland Leader of the Opposition Deb Frecklington speaks during Question Time at Parliament House in Brisbane. Picture: NCA NewsWire/Dan Peled
AUGUST 12, 2020. Queensland Leader of the Opposition Deb Frecklington speaks during Question Time at Parliament House in Brisbane. Picture: NCA NewsWire/Dan Peled

And lastly, one person's religious beliefs should never be forced upon another. There is supposed to be separation between church and state, but the LNP's religious right continue to influence their policies.

The Inquiry report foreword by Aaron Harper MP also noted that every four days in Queensland a person suffering a terminal illness takes their own life. This must stop - no terminally ill person should be forced to end their suffering in such a tragic way, so it is imperative Queensland joins Victoria and WA with a VAD option. And to achieve this, our MPs need to tell us now if they support choice before we take to the polls in October.

Denise Kapernick, East Deep Creek

Gympie Times


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