Mr Brisbane’s millions behind euthanasia push
THE biggest campaign ever mounted to legalise euthanasia in Queensland will be launched today.
A Brisbane-based group that funded the successful push to get assisted dying laws passed in Victoria last November, is turning its focus to the Sunshine State.
Advocates will be able to draw on a war chest from the estate of the late former Brisbane lord mayor Clem Jones, whose will directed $5 million towards euthanasia law reform.
"The plan is to follow in the footsteps of what we managed to support in Victoria," said lawyer David Muir, who manages Dr Jones' estate.
The Clem Jones Group will join forces with pro-euthanasia group Dying With Dignity and Everald Compton's National Seniors Australia movement.
They will meet in February with Go Gentle Australia, the organisation headed by media personality Andrew Denton, which drove the Victorian campaign.
"It's time for Queensland's politicians to listen to the unwavering voice of their constituents on this issue," Mr Denton said.
"The Clem Jones Trust provided Go Gentle Australia with financial support at a crucial time in the Victorian campaign.
"We have seen that opponents to this law are well-resourced and prepared to use any tactics to stop it. Only a campaign with similar resources, and the capacity to call out bulls--t and misinformation as it appears, can hope to counter that."
Advocates aim to get a parliamentary inquiry into end of life issues within a year.
They have written to every Queensland MP and will lobby new Speaker Curtis Pitt to hold a public debate on the issue.
And they will use Dying With Dignity's network of supporters to drive a public awareness campaign.
"I think that as with the same sex marriage issue - but even more so here - the parliamentarians will be led by the people," Mr Muir said.
Previous polls have consistently shown support of 80 per cent-plus for the legalisation of euthanasia.
Premier Annastacia Palaszcuk has said assisted-dying laws are not on the Government's agenda.
But it is ALP policy, with the party's state conference last July backing a motion for a parliamentary inquiry to be followed by the introduction of legislation "for voluntary assisted dying for adults who are terminally ill" based on the Victorian model.
"The tipping point in Victoria was evidence by the coroner about the shocking ways in which people in Victoria - and this applies everywhere in Australia - at the end of their lives were killing themselves out of sheer desperation," Mr Muir said.
"There was an awful story about a fellow who killed himself with a nail gun to the head and chest. But there were others about people jumping off jetties with rocks tied to their legs, and even somebody setting fire to themselves in a bed.
"It was just ghastly stuff and it horrified the Parliament. They realised this can't go on," Mr Muir said.
"The significance of this legislation is that it's you at the end of life making your own choice between a good and bad death. It's not compulsory. It's all about having a choice."
Loved ones and medical professionals acting out of compassion were helping people to die now, he said.
"At the moment people are being killed in an unregulated environment, and we can't be sure that's what they wanted at that time. That to me is far more frightening.
"People are frightened they are going to incriminate their family members, their friends. They're frightened about the repercussions in terms of their estates so people don't talk about it.
"In an unregulated environment, how do we know that somebody is not wanting to bump off granny to get an early inheritance?"
Under proposed legislation, a second or even third medical opinion would be necessary before patients were allowed into the program.
THE torment of watching his beloved wife's slow agonising death motivated former Brisbane lord mayor to bankroll the campaign to legalise euthanasia.
Clem Jones - nicknamed "Mr Brisbane" - never spoke publicly about the issue while alive. But the notes on his final wishes when he died 10 years ago last month spelled out just how passionately he felt.
"I saw Sylvia (his wife) suffer the most dreadful agony from disease and illness that destroyed her physically and mentally and caused her to suffer day after day not only the pain, but also the indignity of being something that could not truly be described as a human being,'' the 89-year-old wrote.
"But Sylvia was only one of millions of people who are committed to varying terms of torture by their fellows."
The devoted couple had been married 49 years when Mrs Jones died in 1999.
"If we have a definition of living of any sort, it cannot include the existence of people simply artificially kept alive against their will and in circumstances that can only be described as totally inhuman or, indeed, barbaric,'' Dr Jones wrote.
He had built a $150 million fortune through property and shares. His will instructed that $5 million be used as his executers saw fit to help "fine people'' fighting to change the law so patients who chose to end their lives could do so.
Several hundred thousand dollars was used to support the successful push to get assisted dying laws passed in Victoria last year and a major campaign will be launched in Queensland this year.
Lawyer David Muir said the executers were determined to see Dr Jones' wishes fulfilled.
"Sylvia had the best of care because Clem was a wealthy man and was able to get the best medical treatment. But he could see that a lot of people would not be in his privileged position. But also he became conscious of the fact that people at the end of life, under law did not have the choice between a good death and a bad death," he said.
"Clem was deeply compassionate man, one of the most compassionate people I've ever met so that obviously moved him."