SYDNEY (Reuters) - Victoria on Wednesday became the first state in Australia to allow terminally ill patients to end their life as its legislature passed a euthanasia law that other states are expected to use as a template.
The legislation, to come into effect in June 2019, will make it legal for any resident of the southeastern state with a terminal illness and with less than six months to live to request a lethal dose of medication.
Sufferers of some conditions, such as motor neurone disease and multiple sclerosis, can request a lethal dose even if they have been given up to a year to live.
“The implementation of the bill ... will give people hope and compassion, and that a good death will in fact be possible for people who are currently enduring difficult, difficult ends of life,” Victoria’s Health Minister Jill Hennessy said outside the state legislature in Melbourne after the lower house approved a law that had already cleared the upper house.
Many countries have legalised euthanasia, including Canada, the Netherlands, Switzerland, and some states in the United States, although the Australian government opposes it.
The Australian Medical Association (AMA) opposes physician-assisted suicide, arguing that better palliative care can address pain and other symptoms of distress.
The Victorian legislation sparked heated parliamentary exchanges, including a marathon 27-hour state parliament debate earlier in November.
The remote Northern Territory, which does not hold Australian statehood, became the first jurisdiction in the world to legalise euthanasia in 1995, but the laws were overturned by the federal government in 1997.
Reporting by Paulina Duran; Editing by Jonathan Barrett and Simon Cameron-Moore