following Fact Sheet has been prepared by the South Australian Voluntary Euthanasia
Society (SAVES). For
further information visit their website at http://www.saves.asn.au
Voluntary Euthanasia Society
Northern Territory was the first jurisdiction in the world to legalise
voluntary euthanasia. In the Netherlands it remains illegal, although
for many years doctors there are not prosecuted provided they follow guidelines
(see Fact Sheet 4). In Oregon, USA, physician
assisted suicide was approved by referendum in 1994 but was blocked for
three years by an appeal on constitutional grounds. Physician assisted
suicide is now legally available in Oregon following a second referendum
in 1997 (see Fact Sheet 18).
Rights of the Terminally Ill Act 1995 was passed on 25 May and came into
1 July 1996. The medical certificates required by the Act proved difficult
to obtain in the face of hostility from the Australian Medical Association,
proposals to repeal the Act with provision to prosecute any doctor providing
assistance under the Act knowing it to be under challenge, and extraordinary
public scrutiny through the media. Consequently, it was not until late
September 1996 that the first patient was assisted to die under the terms
of the Act.
Act included the following provisions:
patient who is 18 years or more, terminally ill and experiencing severe
pain or suffering may request a doctor's assistance to end life.
assistance may take the form of prescribing a substance, preparing
it and giving it to the patient for self administration, or administering
patient may rescind the request at any time and any manner.
doctor is free to refuse the request.
assistance is not to be given if palliative care acceptable to the
patient is available. If the attending doctor is not qualified in
palliative care, information on its availability must be given by
a doctor who is so qualified.
second, independent doctor, specialising in the terminal illness concerned,
must examine the patient and confirm the medical condition.
qualified psychiatrist must examine the patient and confirm that the
patient is not suffering from a treatable clinical depression.
doctors must be satisfied that the patient is fully informed, has
considered the implications for his or her family, is of sound mind
and has made the decision freely, voluntarily and after due consideration.
must be a cooling off period of at least 7 days from an informed verbal
request before a "certificate of request" is signed and witnessed.
There must be a further cooling off period of at least 48 hours before
the request is implemented.
interpreter must be provided if the doctor and patient do not share
the same first language.
medical records must be kept and the implementation of the request
reported to the authorities.
attending doctor must provide the assistance and remain present until
patients were helped to die under the terms of the Act before it was revoked
by Federal Parliament with effect from 27 March 1997.
information contact SAVES at: http://www.saves.asn.au
contact: Hon Secretary, SAVES, PO Box 2151, Kent Town, SA 5071, Australia
- Fax + 61 8 8265 2287