Euthanasia legalized in Australia: State of Victoria will allow assisted suicide beginning mid 2019
11/26/2018 // Rhonda Johansson // Views

Victoria has become the first state in Australia to legalize assisted dying. The final ratification of the bill concludes more than two and a half years of intense debate and controversy. Premier Daniel Andrews, who heavily lobbied for the law, calls the decision a “victory” for those who are terminally ill -- one that signals a humane release of intense pain and suffering. As he puts it, legalized euthanasia gives those with terminal conditions “the compassion and dignity they deserve at the end of their lives.”

Legalized euthanasia in Victoria will start in mid-2019 and will only accommodate Victorians who are diagnosed with a terminal, incurable illness.

The Australian state follows the Netherlands, Canada, Belgium, Colombia, and Luxembourg in making assisted dying legal. In the U.S., some states also allow for this, including California, Washington, D.C., and Oregon. These laws allow doctors to prescribe a way for patients to end their own lives, without directly assisting them.

Advocates for assisted dying argue that the decision to end one’s life should be granted to those who are physically suffering and are terminally ill. They base their arguments on the grounds of compassion. Even so, many groups say that legalizing euthanasia would only encourage more suicides. There is also evidence to suggest that despite the many regulations that govern these laws, many safeguards are still largely ignored or transgressed. In particular, statistics on the subject conclude that euthanasia laws are a “slippery slope” wherein government officials constantly change laws to accommodate people’s wishes to die. In the Netherlands, for example, a terminal illness is no longer necessary to request for an assisted suicide. Anyone over the age of 70 and is “tired of living” can ask for their right to end their own life. (Related: Canada legalizes euthanasia for ARTHRITIS… what’s next?)


Still, Premier Andrews says that the passing of this new law heralds a new age of compassion in Australia. He has also ensured that amendments are included in the law to make legalized euthanasia more restrictive. One of these amendments includes only allowing those who have resided in Victoria for one year to be eligible.

James Merlino, Premier Andrews’ own deputy, remained concerned. “My concern is proponents of this legislation will come back some time in the future and seek to expand it,” he announced in a news conference.

There are also other issues to consider. Medical doctors in the state need to align themselves on the proper procedures and protocols that would allow their patients to request for a euthanizing drug. Of more concern to Dr. Lorraine Baker, President of the Victoria branch of the Australian Medical Association, however, is the acceptance of doctors to willingly end a life.

“Historically, for the medical profession, everything is about preserving life. That is such a fundamental ethical principle over centuries. However, we’re living in a society where now, in first world countries, life can be prolonged. Therefore, by default, apparent suffering can be prolonged.”

Dr. Baker though acknowledged that assisted dying can benefit many people who are currently suffering. She says that the bill was passed without strong criticism from the medical community because of the supposedly heavy restrictions that came with the legislation.

She did mention that there could be unexpected consequences that could result from the law, but these should be handled whenever (and if ever) the time comes.

In response to opponents of the bill who said that euthanasia should be left to those in the medical profession, she says “ultimately, it’s a matter for society and the government.”

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