Church, Nitschke at Qld euthanasia probe

Supporters and opponents of voluntary assisted dying are making their cases to a committee.
Supporters and opponents of voluntary assisted dying are making their cases to a committee.

Queensland's leading Catholic has warned politicians should not be "seduced" into supporting euthanasia by giving too much weight to the heart-wrenching stories of dying Australians.

The Archbishop of Brisbane, Mark Coleridge, is among three religious leaders who on Friday called for better palliative care in Queensland, rather than potential new laws that would allow voluntary euthanasia.

It comes after Victoria's terminally ill are now legally able to ask their doctor for lethal drugs since Australia's only euthanasia laws came into effect in June.

Supporters and opponents of voluntary assisted dying are making their cases to a parliamentary committee.

Archbishop Coleridge warned the parliamentary inquiry into aged care, palliative care and voluntary assisted dying there can be a "seductive quality" to anecdotes in relation to the 5000 written submissions made to the committee.

Committee chairman Aaron Harper had questioned what should be said to people who have told "harrowing stories" of suffering due to serious physical illness.

Archbishop Coleridge said he has heard the same stories, and added there was concern about the ethical principles that would inform the committee's moral judgments.

He also referred to comments by writer Blanche d'Alpuget about the intimacy of caring for someone in a debilitated state after the recent death of her husband, former prime minister Bob Hawke.

"Hers is one of many stories of the intimacy and meaning that can be born of suffering," Archbishop Coleridge said.

Sally Meehan told a different story to the committee about her pious Catholic mother asking for voluntary assisted euthanasia.

"She just said that she did not have any dignity left," Ms Meehan said.

However, Tara Collyer, who has lived with a degenerative mitochondrial disease for 22 years, called for quality palliative care so that people are supported in their last days.

Ms Collyer - now living in pain, a wheelchair, deaf and with low vision - said if she had made the decision to end her suffering early she would have missed out on a career as a teacher, raising her own children and living with her husband.

"No matter how much I decline I am still a person with value who is loved and cared for by others," Ms Collyer said.

Exit International euthanasia campaigner Philip Nitschke said laws should be introduced that make voluntary euthanasia a right.

He said this made the process more simple, compared to what he described as "medicalised laws" which make assisted death a "privilege of the very sick".

Former Queensland premier Campbell Newman, who has expressed his deep regret about not acting to legalise voluntary euthanasia, also appeared in support of assisted dying.

The committee has also heard palliative care outside of large Queensland cities was virtually non-existent.

Australian Associated Press