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Euthanasia reforms to reach across Australia in coming years: experts

When it comes to changing the law to permit voluntary assisted dying Australia-wide, it’s a case of when, not if, say Queensland law experts.

QUT’s Professor Lindy Willmott and Professor Ben White detailed the growing international trend to permit voluntary assisted dying in a recently released journal article.

Willmott said there is an increased willingness for politicians to contemplate reform that is in keeping with community expectations.

Still, the road to reform in Australia has not been simple. As White pointed out, there had been 39 bills aimed at legalising voluntary assisted dying in Australian jurisdictions between 1993 and 2015.

Since then, he added, a further seven bills had been tabled.

“A lot has changed in Australia and globally since the Northern Territory was the first jurisdiction in the world to legalise euthanasia in 1995,” he said. “Those laws were overturned in 1997 by the Commonwealth using its constitutional powers over Territories.”

Last year, Victoria passed legislation to allow voluntary assisted dying across the state. The change will come into effect in June next year.

Willmott said sustained efforts to change the law were likely to continue.

“Since 2016, a higher percentage of bills had been close to passing.

“Victoria had broken through a wall with its 2017 legislation to permit an adult with an advanced incurable disease to seek assistance to die and other states are closely watching.”

And with parts of Western Europe and North America changing laws to allow voluntary assisted dying, Willott said it will be “difficult for Australian politicians to avoid the reality of international developments”.

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