Rights of the Terminally Ill Bill 2013 introduced to NSW Parliament

Tuesday 7 May 2013 @ 9.19 a.m. | Legal Research

Following on from the introduction of new euthanasia laws by the Tasmanian Government in February this year, New South Wales has followed suit with its own bill named the Rights of the Terminally Ill Bill 2013.

The Law So Far

Currently, across Australia, there are no uniform laws for the terminally ill or for aiding euthanasia.

Federally, the Commonwealth has prevented any positive action to aid euthanasia but has not denied the ability of medical practitioners to withdraw treatment from dying patients or patients in palliative care under the Euthanasia Laws Act 1997 (No. 17) (CTH). This, however, applies only to the Australian Capital Territory, Northern Territory and Norfolk Island residents.

The Northern Territory has been the only other jurisdiction to pass an act regarding the rights of the terminally ill in the Rights of the Terminally Ill Act 1997, which was later repealed by the Federal law.

But What about the Other States?

There have been many attempts to introduce euthanasia bills or bills to assist the rights of the terminally ill.

In South Australia, there have been 6 attempts, with three bills failing; Western Australia has attempted once, Tasmania has attempted once and this bill from New South Wales is another attempt at passing new law.

The New South Wales Rights of the Terminally Ill Bill 2013 states as its objective that it would like to "to establish the right of persons who are terminally ill to request assistance from medically qualified persons to voluntarily end their own lives; and for related purposes."

In the second reading speech of the introduction, the Hon. Cate Faehrmann brings to the fore many of the arguments which have been continuously surrounding this debate, "I have at the forefront of my mind human suffering—the suffering that we here in this place have the power to prevent and I would strongly argue that we have a responsibility to prevent."

Over the years, persistent and strong public support for legalised euthanasia coupled with a better understanding of how such a regime could operate means that change will inevitably come. Like the Tasmanian bill, the NSW bill is heavily focused on balancing the needs of patients, the needs of doctors to be protected against medical negligence claims and prevent abuse of the rights afforded by the bill.

The NSW Bill has also introduced a standardised procedure which must be undertaken including psychological analysis, a cooling off period for everyone involved and allowing scope for doctors who are conscientious objectors to not perform any action involved.

The focus should be not on the moral standpoint of euthanasia (like much of the debate seems to be) but about how to cope with the growing demands of an ageing population and protect our doctors the best way we can.

To read more about the bill, click here.

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