Concluding after over 100 hours of heavy debate and overnight sittings, the Australian state of Victoria has officially passed legislation allowing for assisted dying.
Being the first state in the nation to legalise the controversial medical practise, supporters hope this decision will lead the rest of the nation in the right direction.
The law means that patients over 18 with less than 6 months life expectancy will be eligible for a lethal injection. The law will come into effect from mid-2019.
The debate over assisted dying, also commonly known as euthanasia, has been fierce in recent months. Supporters believe that adults with fatal medical conditions and no hope of improvement should have the right to end their life rather than go through months of suffering.
Those against the legislation argued that there was an ethical issue with taking someone’s life and that it is hard to determine if the person really wants to die or feels pressured by family members. Many argued that there is an implied burden on families when someone suffers a slow death and this may influence their decision to ask for assisted dying.
Many doctors also came out against the legislation stating that they did not want assisted dying to become part of their responsibilities and that it was against medical ethics.
The debate has been useful in shaping the 68 safeguards against coercion included in the legislation. These safeguards included that a patient must request assisted dying 3 different times, their request must be viewed by a board and that they are proven to be of sound mind.
The patient must also have lived in Victoria for a minimum of a year and any coercion of patients to end their lives will be considered a serious crime.
Patients with degenerative conditions such as multiple sclerosis and motor neurone disease will be eligible once they are considered to have a 12 month life expectancy.
In 1995 a similar law was passed in the Northern territory but overturned by the federal government 8 months later. The federal government cannot overturn Victoria’s law as it is a state and not a territory.
While some believe this legislation will enable abuse of elders and the chronically ill, others believe it is a humane move that will allow fatally ill patients to die on their own terms. Many supporters are people who have had family members endure long period of prolonged suffering before dying and hope this legislation will prevent what they consider an unnecessary hardship.