Position of Australia on Euthanasia

Introduction

Euthanasia is derived from the Greek word eu means “well” or “good” and thanatos means “death” meaning “good death”.

Euthanasia is also known as mercy killing, an act or practice of painlessly putting to the death of a person who is suffering from a painful and incurable disease or allowing them to die by not doing some treatment or incapacitating physical disorder or by withdrawing any artificial life support measures.

In Australia, Victoria was the first state to pass the Voluntarily Assisted Dying Act (2017). Voluntary assisted dying (VAD) means a person who is in a very bad stage or last stage of any advanced disease can take medication prescribed by the doctor that will bring his death at the selected time. It helps the people who are suffering from and dying because of some disease it provide a legal framework to choose that how they want to die and the timing of their death. Because of having all the types of safeguards and rigorous protection, Victoria is considered as safest and most conservative in the world in terms of accessing voluntary assisted dying.

History of Euthanasia

  1. Killick Millard found the society called Voluntary euthanasia legislation society in 1935. This, later on, is known as Euthanasia society. This society has organized a move to legalize Euthanasia in 1935. But the bill failed in the house of Lords in 1936. Euthanasia is coming into highlight from the time of Plato, Aristotle, and Stoics.

Types of Euthanasia

  • Voluntary Euthanasia: It occurs when a person voluntarily requests the termination of his or her life.
  • Non-Voluntary Euthanasia: It occurs when a person is not mentally fit to make an “informed request” for termination of life.
  • Involuntary Euthanasia: It occurs when a person has not requested termination of his or her life.
  • Active Euthanasia: This type of euthanasia is also known as “positive euthanasia” or “aggressive euthanasia”. It occurs when somebody ends a patient’s life by using a lethal substance or force. Comparatively, this euthanasia is more controversial as compare to others.
  • Passive Euthanasia: This type of euthanasia is also known as “negative euthanasia” or “non-aggressive euthanasia”. It occurs when a patient dies by not providing essential things and it is done intentionally for causing the death of a person. For example, removing oxygen mask or not providing necessary drugs.
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Right to Die

There are the big questions considered before the Victorian Parliament narrowly passed the state’s assisted dying laws in November 2017 and since 2019 Victoria has placed the assisted suicide scheme into effect.

The Right to die come to the mind of every person when you knew your last six or 12 months would bring intolerable suffering so there is any way to speed up the process or people ever be able to take their own lives to stop suffering from the pain which he is suffering from months or years.

Position of Australia on Euthanasia

Voluntary assisted dying (VAD) is illegal in all the Australian states and territories except in Victoria where it is considered lawful. VAD laws have also passed in Western Australia and will commence on 1 July 2021. In the States and territories of Australia where voluntary assisted dying is illegal, anyone who assists another person to die may be charged with murder, assisting dying, or manslaughter.

On March 1996 and March 1997 voluntary euthanasia and physical assisted suicide was legal in the northern territory as per the Rights of the Terminally III Act (NT). But on 24 March 1997 the court the act unconstitutional. Voluntary euthanasia and physical assisted suicide are currently illegal in the northern territory of Australia.

  • Who is Eligible for Euthanasia

Voluntarily assisted dying is only available to Victorians over 18 who have lived in Victoria for a minimum of 12 months and have been diagnosed with an incurable disease that causes intolerable suffering which can’t be relieved and who have less than six months to live or 12 months if their diagnosis is neurodegenerative. The patient has to be capable of making sound decisions, giving consent, and communicating exactly what they want and they have to come to that decision themselves It can’t have been someone else’s idea.

  • Procedure for Euthanasia

The person who wants the benefit of euthanasia can only discuss with health practitioners about Voluntary assisted dying. His/Her family member or Carer cannot ask voluntary assisted dying on behalf of him.

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If you want to request voluntary assisted dying then any suitable doctor will check for eligibility. If the person is eligible then the same process will be repeated with the second doctor and they will make sure that it is a voluntary decision taken by the person. So it means you need two doctors to agree on this.

So basically you have to ask three times.

The terminally ill person has to first make a verbal request to their doctor and the patient has to be the one to raise it.

They are then referred to a second doctor usually a specialist in the patient’s condition to whom they submit a written request and will assess their eligibility. Then they need to go back to the first doctor who conducts a final assessment before they hand over the decision to Victoria’s department of health and Human Services which will review those applications and before taking a final decision they will make a written declaration that is witnessed by two independent individuals in which they are confirming that they are informed and support for voluntary assisted dying of that person.

It is legal to go outside Australia to seek assistance to die?

Some of the people go to those countries where assisted dying is legal and they want to do that practice like going to Switzerland to receive assistance to die. But till now it is not addressed that whether or not it is lawful for the people of Australia can go outside the territory of Australia for treatment of assisted dying.

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In which countries Euthanasia is Legal?

There are so many countries where euthanasia is considered a lawful practice. The first country that legalizes euthanasia is Netherland. Holland and Belgium are the only two countries that legalize active euthanasia. Belgium doesn’t have any age restrictions for euthanasia. Assisted dying is allowed in Canada. Some states of the USA are allowed to perform euthanasia. Countries like New Zealand, France, Switzerland, Colombia, and Luxembourg allowed euthanasia.

Key cases

  • R v Klinkermann [2013] VSC 65

Mrs. Klinkermann was diagnosed with the disease of Parkinson’s and dementia in 2006. In 2012 her condition become progressively worse and because of that, she could not chew food and shallow liquid easily. In August 2012 Mr. Klinkermaan (her husband) give her sleeping tablets because she was suffering from too much pain and took several himself. He attempted to kill both of them by taking carbon monoxide poisoning. But it went unsuccessful and Mr. Klinkermaan was charged with the attempt to murder his wife. He was sentenced to under 18-month community corrections order in which he receives medical and mental health treatment and rehabilitation.

  • R v Cox (1992) 12 BMLR 38

An elder lady Boyes was in agonizing pain from rheumatoid arthritis. She knows Dr. Cox for 13 years. After so many unsuccessful attempts done by Dr cox to control her pain, Boyes begged him to kill her. Dr cox give a large dose of potassium chloride to Boyes and Boyes died shortly and Dr. Cox was charged with an attempt to murder.

Conclusion

As per the intend of euthanasia we cannot take a life of a person to relieve him/her from any of the pain or suffering. The right to life can be given throughout the nations worldwide whereas the Right to die is only referred to by some of the selected nations. The human being is considered as the temple of God and the spirit of the god exists in the human body. So no one can impair that temple.

Author: Ritik Brahmbhatt,
Navrachana University 2nd year

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