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Australian state considers approving assisted suicide for terminally ill patients

Xinhua, May 18, 2017 Adjust font size:

Terminally ill Victorians within two years of dying will be able to ask for assisted suicide under legislation that will legalize euthanasia in the state, reports said Thursday.

A ministerial advisory panel is currently drafting the historic legislation which will make assisted death available to those suffering from terminal illnesses.

The panel was arranged after a parliamentary inquiry in 2016 recommended legalizing euthanasia in Victoria for adults of sound mind in the final weeks of life.

Despite the inquiry's recommendation, the panel is considering defining a patient's "end of life" timeframe as six, 12, 18 or 24 months.

The panel has received more than 300 submissions from around the state in order to develop the framework around who would qualify for assisted suicide.

"There was strong consensus that 'enduring and unbearable suffering' be determined according to the person's own perception, not by anyone else," Brian Owler, the chairman of the panel, told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC).

Patients suffering from dementia would not be able to request an assisted death due to not having a capacity to make decisions but those with Motor Neurone Disease (MND), Parkinson's Disease or Multiple Sclerosis (MS) could be eligible.

Under the committee's proposal, the request for assisted death would have to come from the patients themselves and must be repeated three times, one of which would be a formal written request.

Two independent doctors with specialist training and at least five years' experience would have to approve the request before it could be approved.

Jill Hennessy, Victoria's Health Minister, said the bill would be put to a conscience vote in parliament later in 2017.

It is my view that if Victoria is to have an assisted dying model it needs to be a relatively conservative one," Hennessy said.

"It needs to be able to align with other practices within the healthcare system.

"There are many neurological conditions that may require us to look at a timeframe that reflects the very sometimes cruel trajectory of those illnesses." Endit