Voluntary assisted dying, voluntary euthanasia, or dying with dignity. Whatever you call it, assistance in ending a life remains a crime in Australia. Although it is known to happen across the country, very few medical professionals or family members are ever prosecuted.
The Northern Territory Parliament legalised it in the late 90’s for a short time before the Federal Parliament overturned the law.
Victoria and New South Wales plan to hold conscience votes in their parliaments in an attempt to legalise voluntary assisted dying in the second half of this year (2017).
A cross-party parliamentary working group has drafted the NSW Voluntary Assisted Dying Bill 2017 and in Victoria it will be a government bill.
It is interesting to look at why Victoria has decided to vote on this. Premier Daniel Andrews was an opponent of voluntary euthanasia until the death of his father in April 2016. Mr Andrews said that his father “withered away in great pain”.
“My opposition to these laws for me was wrong,” Mr Andrews said. “There is no reason for this to be anything other than a civil, serious, perhaps at times an intense debate, but it should be a respectful one.”
People who argue for the legalisation say in circumstances of extreme and prolonged suffering, it is an individual’s right to choose to end that suffering and die in a dignified way. They believe a patient with a terminal illness whose health will not improve should be given the option to end their life before suffering becomes overwhelming. The arguments in favour are many. Some of them can be found here:
People who argue against legalising voluntary euthanasia say that once a law is passed allowing a form of suicide, it can be a slippery slope to worse outcomes for the community. They say that people could manipulate circumstances to terminate the lives of people who may not want it. There are more arguments against voluntary euthanasia and they can be viewed here:
This is a sensitive, complex topic for most people, with views shaped by personal experience and pre-existing opinions.
If you want to read further on this issue (and you have the time) it is worth giving this report a read:
Would you support the introduction of Voluntary Assisted Dying in Australia?