Voluntary Euthanasia Bill 2016

In February 2016, the Voluntary Euthanasia Bill 2016 (Bill) was introduced into South Australia’s Legislative Assembly. The Bill use the terms ‘unbearable’ and ‘hopeless’ as central defining factors.

In essence the Bill seeks to allow medical practitioners to assist in ending a person’s life when their suffering becomes unbearable and the medical practitioner concludes that their prognosis is hopeless. It is the person seeking to end their life who determines what is unbearable. In terms of what is hopeless, it is the role of the medical practitioner to determine that there are no further treatment options available to the person which could potentially relieve their suffering and assuming that such options would be acceptable to the person.

The Bill requires that to be eligible for voluntary euthanasia the person must be a competent adult and have been resident in the state for at least 6 months.

The Bill also deals with issues that may arise by insurers failing to make payments on life insurance policies where an person has died as a result of euthanasia, by preventing insurers from denying such claims purely on the basis that death arose as a result of voluntary euthanasia. Health practitioners and facilities are entitled to refuse to participate in voluntary euthanasia however, facilities must make this known prior to the admission of any person.

In terms of safety procedures, the Bill makes provisions requiring at least two examinations by separate medical practitioners and if required by either of these practitioners, by a psychiatrist as well. The initial assessment can only occur where a person considering voluntary euthanasia initiates the request and the request must be witnessed by a competent adult. The practitioner is required to provide the following information in writing to the person:

  1. a diagnosis and prognosis of his or her illness, injury or condition;
  2. information explaining the forms of treatment that are reasonably available to treat his or her illness, injury or condition (if any) and the risks associated with such treatment;
  3. information setting out the medical procedures that may be used to administer voluntary euthanasia and the risks associated with the procedures;
  4. any other information required by the regulations for the purposes of this subsection.

A review of past Bills introduced in South Australia concerning voluntary euthanasia reveal that various Bills have been introduced in recent times in 2006, 2007, 2008, 2010 and 2012, all of which have been defeated. It will be interesting to see if the current Bill is passed.

We will keep you advised as to the progress of this Bill.

Post by Karen Kumar and Cameron Leaver 

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