Victoria becomes first Australian state to legalise euthanasia

Victorian MPs react after the Voluntary Assisted Dying Bill 2017 was passed in the Victorian Legislative Council in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia, on Nov 22, 2017. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

SYDNEY (AFP) - An Australian state on Wednesday (Nov 29) became the first in the country to legalise assisted dying, or euthanasia, with lawmakers voting to allow terminally ill patients the right to request a lethal drug to end their lives from June 2019.

The legislation was passed in Victoria after 100 hours of often fiery debate, making it the only place in Australia where the practice will be legal.

State Premier Daniel Andrews, who supported the bill after the death of his father last year and allowed a conscience vote in parliament, said he was proud to help those suffering.

"Victoria is the first state to pass voluntary assisted dying laws in Australia - giving Victorians with a terminal illness the compassion and dignity they deserve at the end of their lives," he said.

The scheme will be accessible only to terminally ill patients over 18 living in Victoria with less than six months to live, down from an originally proposed 12 months.

Those applying must be determined by multiple doctors to be suffering intolerable pain and be of sound mind.

If they are able, the patient will administer the lethal substance themselves, but if they are not, a doctor will help.

Victorian Attorney-General Martin Pakula said robust debate on the issue had ensured there were ample safeguards.

"We have ensured we have compassionate legislation while still giving Victorians the protections and safeguards they need - making this the most conservative and safest scheme in the world," he said.

Assisted suicide is illegal in most countries around the world and until now had been banned in Australia, although it was legal for a time in the Northern Territory before the law was overturned in the 1990s.

When it was legal there, prominent Australian right-to-die campaigner Philip Nitschke became the first doctor in the world to administer a legal, voluntary, lethal injection to end a life.

He went on to do the same for three other people.

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