CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — An Australian state parliament on Wednesday legalized voluntary euthanasia 20 years after the country repealed the world’s first mercy-killing law for the terminally ill.
The final vote in the Victorian parliament means that doctor-assisted suicide will be allowed in Australia’s second-most populous state from mid-2019.
Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews, who became a euthanasia advocate after his father died of cancer last year, said the reform showed compassion.
“This is a day that I’m very proud to have made this reform and to have led a team that has delivered the sort of leadership that all Victorians can be proud of.” Andrews told reporters outside the parliament.
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“For too long, we have denied, to too many, the compassion, the control, the power that should be theirs … in those final moments of their life,” he said.
Australian Christian Lobby managing director Lyle Shelton has accused the state government of sanctioning assisted suicide as an alternative to properly funding palliative care for the terminally ill in Victoria.
The parliament of Australian’s most populous state, New South Wales, rejected a doctor-assisted suicide bill two weeks ago by a single vote, 20 to 19.
Australia’s sparsely populated Northern Territory in 1995 became the first jurisdiction in the world to legalize doctor-assisted suicide for terminally ill patients. But the Australian Parliament overturned that law in 1997 after four people had been helped to die.
The Australian Parliament does not have the same power to repeal the laws of states such as Victoria.
Laws to legalize mercy killings have been narrowly rejected by three of Australia’s six states.
A euthanasia bill was defeated by a single vote in the South Australian House of Assembly a year ago and similar legislation was rejected by two votes in Tasmania’s House of Assembly in 2013.
Under the Victorian law, a doctor would be permitted to administer a lethal injection only in cases where patients were physically incapable of doing so themselves.
Patients usually must have less than six months to live to qualify and have resided in Victoria for at least a year.