After a marathon debate lasting over 24 hours, the Lower House of the Government in Victoria, Australia, passed legislation that could clear the way to Voluntary Assisted Suicide in the country. The bill needs to go to the Upper House. If it gets through the Upper House, terminally ill people over the age of 18, in severe pain and with only a year to live will be able to access lethal drugs. If passed, the legislation will not come into effect for 18 months to allow for its implementation.
The legislation includes a range of safeguards. Patients would have to make three requests and see specially trained doctors, and coercing someone to seek a medically assisted death would become a crime.[i]
In the UK, the High Court once again rejected a challenge to existing law. Noel Conway, 67, who has motor-neurone disease and breathes with the aid of a ventilator, said that wished to enable doctors to be able to assist him in having a “peaceful and dignified” death. His legal argument was based on his right to his “private life and family life”. However, the judges maintained the current law, ruling that anyone who assists Noel Conway would be committing a crime.[ii]
The case was opposed by the Secretary of State for Justice, with Humanists UK, Care Not Killing and Not Dead Yet UK also making submissions.
James Strachan QC said that it was inappropriate for the courts to interfere with Parliament’s legitimate decision on the “sensitive moral, social and ethical issue” raised by the case.
The Care Not Killing Alliance said, in a statement, ‘it was pretty clear that they [the High Court Judges] had put a huge amount of weight on the medical evidence and the evidence from disabled people about how any change couldn’t be controlled and they’d also looked at what had happened in other jurisdictions”.