Euthanasia continues to be a hotly debated and divisive topic in countries all over the world.
Encompassing moral, ethical and legal issues, the idea of assisted dying is an issue governments have struggled to address, often forcing desperate terminally ill patients to travel overseas to countries like Switzerland where euthanasia is legal – this practice of travelling overseas to receive euthanasia is referred to as “euthanasia tourism.” For Victorians, euthanasia tourism will no longer be necessary as legislation recently passed to allow doctor-assisted dying.
In light of this new development, here’s what you need to know.
What exactly is euthanasia?
Euthanasia is derived from the Greek word euthanatos, which can be translated to mean “good death” or “easy death”. The term describes the termination of a person’s life in order to prevent any further suffering by a patient. It is important to note that a person who undergoes this process has been diagnosed with an incurable condition accompanied by significant suffering.
Euthanasia falls under three different categories – voluntary, non-voluntary or involuntary. Euthanasia is considered voluntary when a patient specifically expresses their decision to end their life. A case is determined as non-voluntary when consent cannot be provided by the patient due to their medical state. Lastly, involuntary involves the euthanasia procedure being performed against the will of a patient, and is a practice that can be considered murder.
How will the process work in Victoria?
Currently, voluntary assisted dying will only be available to Victorians as the legislation has only passed through the Victorian State Government. Victorians will need to be over 18 years of age and have the ability to make a conscious decision. Patients must be experiencing intolerable suffering due to an incurable illness and have a life expectancy of less than six months.
In order to ensure a patient is eligible, a patient must approach medical staff (doctors are not allowed to initiate discussion of euthanasia) and two doctors will need to sign off on the process. In order for a patient to express their wishes and put forth an application, two formal requests will need to be made and be accompanied by a written statement.
If found eligible, a patient will administer the lethal substance themselves if they are physically able to do so. If a patient is unable to administer the drug, the substance will be prescribed and administered by a doctor.
Doctors who object to the practice of euthanasia have the right to refuse to provide information or assist in the process.