One of Queensland’s top aged-care operators has threatened to quit the industry if it is forced to provide voluntary euthanasia. The warning by Southern Cross Care, which runs 11 aged-care homes and five retirement villages, echoes alarm by the Mater Group of Catholic hospitals about Queensland becoming the third state to introduce an assisted dying law. Voluntary assisted dying (VAD) is being driven as a grassroots election issue by pro-euthanasia groups and, on the other side, by churches and the right-to-life lobby. Chief executive Jason Eldering said VAD would put Catholic-aligned Southern Cross in a difficult position. “We would not be willing to join the assisted dying process,” he said. “We would help any of our clients or residents to move to a location where they wished to pursue the assisted dying process, but we would never intervene to cause death in our facilities.”

His comments came after the chairman of the Mater Group, Francis Sullivan, said that the private provider would not allow VAD in any of its 10 hospitals in Queensland or refer terminally ill patients who asked to die. Victoria’s foundational VAD law allows institutions such as hospitals and retirement homes to opt out on conscientious grounds and, unlike the situation with elective abortion, does not require dissenting doctors to refer patients.  The scheme came into effect in June 2019, followed by the passage of right-to-die legislation through the WA parliament in December. In March, a parliamentary committee in Queensland came out in favour of assisted dying and referred draft legislation to the QLRC. The proposed bill reflects the Victorian law by permitting a health or aged-care “entity” to refuse VAD, but it must then arrange to transfer the patient to a facility where it can be administered.

The expectation is that a re-elected Labor government under Annastacia Palaszczuk would proceed with VAD. Liberal National Party leader Deb Frecklington is guarded on the issue, saying she would wait to see the QLRC report, due in March. LNP policy is opposed to VAD, but she said MPs would have a conscience vote on any legislation. Mr Eldering said Southern Cross Care wanted clarity to ensure that aged-care providers would not be compelled to participate if assisted dying came in. “We are saying that the legislation and our mission are incompatible if that was the case and we were forced to join,” he said.

Source: Compiled by APN from media reports

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