Australia plans to lift ban on euthanasia after 25 years

The Australian Parliament received a new measure on Monday that aims to end the 25-year ban on physician-assisted suicide in two territories.

The Northern Territory of Australia, which has a small population, became the first nation in the world to authorize assisted suicide in 1995.

The Northern Territory is one of the remaining places in Australia where physician assisted suicide is still illegal, although the historic statute was overturned by the Australian Parliament two years after it had been passed. At that time, four terminally ill patients had been given legal assistance to die.

Government legislator Luke Gosling, who represents an electorate in the Northern Territory, told Parliament that “Australians living in the territories have been treated as second-class citizens for far too long.”

In the House of Representatives, he and his colleague Alicia Payne submitted a bill that would permit the Northern Territory and Australian Capital Territory legislatures to approve assisted suicide.

The six states that have recently passed euthanasia laws do not share the same legal protections as the two territories.

As opposed to territory legislation, the Australian Parliament does not have the same constitutional authority to overturn state laws. Less than 1 million of Australia’s 26 million residents live in the two territories.

Canberra and two villages make up Payne’s seat in the Australian Capital Territory, and she classified her bill as essential. Mercy killing of terminally ill patients was regarded as a “extremely essential topic that we are not permitted to have just because of where we live” by the speaker.

In 1997, conservative government politician Kevin Andrews put forth the legislation prohibiting the territories from passing laws allowing assisted suicide. In 2018, a conservative-led administration was in charge once more, and a bill to lift the restriction failed.

The Senate needed two more votes to pass that law. In the Senate, earlier attempts in 2008 and 2010 likewise fell short.

Since then, New South Wales became the last state to enact its own euthanasia laws in May of this year, and Victoria became the first state to authorize assisted suicide in June of 2019.

The federal administration of the center-left Labor Party, which was elected in May, has declared it will permit its legislators to vote on the measure in accordance with their consciences rather than following party line.

On earlier euthanasia measures, the conservative Liberal Party in opposition has also permitted conscience votes.

The Catholic Church is urging federal legislators to reject the proposal.

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