“I’m a doctor, none!”

“Comfortable with?  I’m a doctor, none!”

So said Queensland’s Chief Health Officer, Dr Jeanette Young, in the daily COVID media conference on Friday in response to a question from a reporter about how much COVID-related death she would be comfortable with.

“Come on. Can you please remember who I am? I stand up here every day but ultimately, I went into medicine to save lives. I’m not comfortable with any deaths that are preventable.”

The incredulity with which Dr Young responded to the reporter’s question was a clear indication of how ludicrous such a question sounds to a person who has dedicated their life to healing and saving lives.

Doctors don’t want patients to die unnecessarily. 

The media conference went on, with another reporter suggesting Dr Young was making political decisions.

“I’m not making political decisions... Sorry, you’ve got me quite upset now. I do not want to see any death of a Queenslander that is preventable whether it be due to smoking, due to obesity, due to high alcohol intake, due to accidents that could have been prevented, due to road trauma, I could go on. That is what I have just spent the last 16 years of my life working on, so I don’t want to see any deaths.”

What about from euthanasia?

The elephant in this particular room is larger than most.

At the same time Queensland’s Chief Health Officer and a key advisor to Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk over the past 18 months is telling people that doctors are not comfortable with any preventable deaths, Queensland Parliament is set to debate euthanasia and assisted suicide laws.

As Sydney Morning Herald columnist Parnell Palme McGuinness pointed out, Dr Young will “presumably have to get comfortable with the idea that some Queenslanders, whose lives she could have prolonged by weeks or even months, will die.”

McGuinness also pointed out the strange paradox in all this.

“If the Queensland bill passes mid-month, citizens will be able to make the fraught decision to die by their own hand before they are granted permission to live with their own risks.

“In Western Australia, eligible people have been able to access voluntary assisted dying since the first of July. The irony of the “My Life, My Choice” banners waved by the celebrating campaigners appears to have eluded jailer-in-chief Mark McGowan. Victoria, which introduced voluntary assisted dying legislation a couple of years back did not see any contradiction in denying elderly people the comfort of their families in their last hours at the same time as 224 people took advantage of end of life medicines between July and December 2020.”

The COVID pandemic has demonstrated clearly how our society is willing to forego personal freedoms in order to protect those most at risk. How can it go back as if nothing happened? McGuinness continues:

“[H]ow can a society that has for the last 20 months valued the last years of life above the development of children and the experience-hunger of teenagers suddenly turn around and decide that we are happy to abet ending the lives of the elderly and infirm?”

How indeed.