Some form of human euthanasia or assisted suicide is legal in the Netherlands, Belgium, Colombia, Luxembourg, Switzerland, Germany, Japan, Albania and in the US states of Washington, Oregon, Vermont, New Mexico, Montana and California.
Euthanasia is currently illegal in every state and territory of Australia. For a brief period, it once was legal in the Northern Territory, by the Rights of the Terminally Ill Act 1995. However in 1997, the Australian Federal Government overrode the Northern Territory legislation through the introduction of the Euthanasia Laws Act 1997.
Around the world, an increasing number of states and countries are allowing people to choose for themselves.
In 2015 alone:
- Germany passed a law allowing assisted suicide.
- California passed legislation that provides terminally ill patients the right to die.
- A Dutch court cleared a man of all criminal charges for assisting his 99-year-old mother to commit suicide.
- A South African judge ruled that a terminally ill man had a right to assisted suicide with no legal or professional consequences for the participating doctor.
- The Supreme Court of Canada struck down the country’s ban on medically assisted suicide.
Over the last 25 years, there has been significant increases in average life-expectancy, and in senility-related diseases. Over the same period, community attitudes towards a range of controversial and divisive issues have changed, and our laws have reflected these changes. For example:
- Women working after marriage;
- The destigmatising of children born out-of-wedlock;
- Defacto couples and domestic partnerships;
- No-fault divorce;
- Same-sex relationships.
Every 2 years or so in South Australian Parliament, there is a private member’s bill seeking to reform the law in this area, and each time the vote gets closer and closer.
Most “Dying with Dignity” proposed legislation in Australia seeks to achieve specific goals:
- Provide terminally ill people with access to medical assistance to end their lives painlessly and with dignity;
- Establish safeguards to ensure to protect the vulnerable;
- Protect physicians who provide medical assistance;
- Set strict conditions upon when and how assisted death may occur.
This debate shows no signs of slowing.
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