Just a quick blog post to reassure those alarmed by the dodgy “voluntary should mean voluntary” scaremongering campaign. Please see the corrected version below.
Of course neither patients or health professionals will be pressured into voluntary assisted dying under the proposed Queensland voluntary assisted dying legislation. The word “voluntary” in “voluntary assisted dying” makes it pretty clear, but don’t just take my word for it.
Let’s look at some key sections from “A Legal Framework for Voluntary Assisted Dying”, published by the Queensland Law Reform Commission (QLRC) in May 2021 [PDF]. This is the document Queensland politicians will be reviewing next week, prior to casting a conscious vote.
“Voluntary assisted dying is an active and voluntary practice… It is a voluntary practice in that it is undertaken at the person’s request. More than one request is required. The decision to access the process must be made freely and without coercion.” (QLRC, May 2021, section 1.48, page 7)
“In summary, we recommend that the right to refuse to participate in voluntary assisted dying on the grounds of conscientious objection should apply to registered health practitioners (such as doctors and nurses) and to speech pathologists.” (QLRC, May 2021, section 14.96, page 437)
The proposed Queensland voluntary assisted dying law is similar to the existing legal framework for termination of pregnancy, in that neither patients or clinicians are forced into dong something they object to. The proposed Queensland voluntary assisted dying law has additional safeguards.
For example, a patient safeguard includes: “The process of request and assessment involves three separate requests that are clear and documented. The process has a waiting period of at least 9 days between the first and final request.” (QLRC, May 2021, section 8.477, page 248)
An example of a safeguard for health practitioners includes provision for “conscientious objection” (QLRC, May 2021, section 8.103, page 200) and, “The practitioner must have completed the approved training before they accept a transfer of the role of administering practitioner.” (QLRC, May 2021, section 13.187, page 412) To my way of thinking, this is a generous safeguard in that it allows health professionals who are unsure or ambivalent to simply not-get-around-to completing the training. This also safeguards the patient from enduring a clinician who is unsure of their own beliefs, or passively resistant to the patient’s wishes.
There is strong support for voluntary assisted dying (VAD) legislation in Queensland:
~77% of the public support VAD
~87% of nurses support VAD
Source: Queensland Nurses & Midwives Union (QNMU), June 2021, Submission into the Voluntary Assisted Dying Bill 2021 [PDF]
It is interesting to reflect on why nurses have a higher rate of support for voluntary assisted dying than the general public… What do nurses see and know that others don’t see and know?
It is also important to reassure the 13% of Queensland nurses and midwives who did not support voluntary assisted dying in the QNMU February 2021 survey [PDF], that they will not be pressured or compelled to participate. Just as is the case with pregnancy termination, only a very small percentage of the nursing workforce are in roles where they will be directly exposed voluntary assisted dying. Not only is there no pressure to become involved if you do not want to, you can not be involved unless you choose to complete specific voluntary assisted dying training.
Voluntary does mean voluntary. Scaremongering means scaremongering.
Obviously, I’m part of the 87% of Queensland nurses who support voluntary assisted dying legislation. I’ve written about it previously in July [here], and wasn’t intending to write about it again. However, the scaremongering campaign can not go unaddressed. I’m realistic. I know the Catholic church has a much bigger audience and budget than me. All I have to counter their scaremongering is integrity and social media (it’s my loudest voice).
Thanks for visiting my blog. As always, your feedback is welcome via the comments section below.
Paul McNamara, 7 September 2021
Short URL: meta4RN.com/Voluntary
Addit on 08/09/21
This makes the same argument as me, but in a more articulate manner: