Still no answers

It has been two months since the Queensland Government announced that a man had died after taking the lethal drugs intended for his wife, and still the public have no information about what happened and what the government intends to do to prevent it from happening again.

The first annual report from the Queensland Government into its euthanasia and assisted suicide regime was issued on 25 September. 

The report revealed that of the 265 deaths that occurred in just six months (the highest death rate for any Australian state), one death was of a man who took the lethal drugs intended for his wife.

A media release from the Minister for Health, Shannon Fentiman, read:

“The death of an elderly man who was not eligible for VAD– but ingested an oral substance prescribed to a VAD-eligible person known to the man – has been referred to the Coroner.

“Queensland Health is finalising an investigation into this incident, including circumstances where a person transitions from self-administering a VAD substance to having it administered by an authorised practitioner.”

The death was announced on 25 September 2023, but it is not clear when the death occurred. Given that the annual report was only covering deaths up until 30 June 2023, it is safe to assume that the man’s death occurred well before 25 September.

This leads to several questions: why was the public only made aware of the wrongful death as part of the annual report? Why are there still no answers, two months after the public announcement? Has this happened again?

All the public have been told is that Queensland Health is conducting an investigation into the incident, that the findings will be given to the Coroner, and that there may be some legislative change.

Health Minister Shannon Fentiman told media:

“We will look at absolutely whether we need to strengthen the legislation about that 14-day turnaround for medication to be returned, which I suspect we will do.”

It’s not clear what assistance shortening the timeframe for return of unused substances will do to make this regime safer: non-eligible persons will either just consume the drugs within the shortened time frame, or do so soon after they are prompted by authorities about the location of the drugs.

But this is what politicians do: announce an inquiry or two, propose actions that will give the impression something is being done, with no one safer as a result.

The Queensland case demonstrates what HOPE has always said: there is no ‘safe’ way to legalise euthanasia and assisted suicide. The only safe thing to do is repeal them.