The highly emotive issue of voluntary euthanasia became a headline issue this past month with Australia’s only current laws becoming active in the state of Victoria (making it the only Australian state where assisted dying is legal).
Stringent criteria and safeguards apply including eligibility being restricted to those who meet the following criteria:
- A Victorian resident (for at least 12 months);
- being an Australian citizen;
- 18 years or older;
- who has the capacity to make decisions themselves and has independently made the decision at the time of being unwell;
- who is in intolerable pain; and
- has an incurable disease, illness or medical condition that will likely cause death within 6 months (or 12 months for neurodegenerative diseases).
The person must make the request themselves (and not, for example, an attorney) and follow a strict process including being assessed by a medical practitioner. Any person who is the beneficiary of a person’s Will cannot be among the two witnesses required to sign the relevant application. The criteria also prevents people from travelling from other states to Victoria to be euthanised (unless meeting the above residency criteria).
Despite the support for the laws, opposition remains including from representatives from The Australian Medical Association (who support better palliative care) and the Catholic Church. Other Australian states, including Queensland, are watching closely having also already explored similar laws.