On 21st September 2017, a bill to legalise assisted suicide was introduced to the NSW Legislative Assembly.
The ‘Voluntary Assisted Dying’ Bill has been drafted by an unofficial working group of politicians including MLCs Trevor Khan, Mehreen Faruqi, Lynda Voltz, and MPs Alex Greenwich and Lee Evans.
This bill would make both assisted suicide and euthanasia legal in cases where a doctor believes someone has 12 months or less left to live. This will only apply to NSW residents who are 25 years old or older.
A report in November 2016 revealed that suicide rates among young Australians (16-24) are at their highest in 10 years. Multiple studies have observed a ‘copycat effect’, where suicide rates rise when suicide is publicised or promoted. Young people and the elderly – rather than the middle-aged – seem to be most susceptible to this trend, which academics call the ‘Werther effect’.
Assisted suicide and euthanasia are currently illegal throughout Australia in all six states and both territiories. The Australian Medical Association (AMA), the professional association for Australian doctors and medical students, has declared its opposition to changing the law to legalise physician-assisted suicide.
In recent years, there have been a number of disturbing cases from countries which have legalised assisted suicide and/or euthanasia, such as Belgium and the Netherlands. Belgium lifted its age restrictions in 2014, leading to a terminally ill 17-year-old becoming the first minor to be euthanised in that country. In 2015, Belgian doctors approved euthanasia for a healthy 24-year-old woman because she was “suffering from suicidal thoughts”.
A previous bill (seeking to legalise assisted suicide and euthanasia) was defeated in May 2013 by 23 votes to 13 after being proposed by Greens MLC Cate Faehrmann. Ms Faehrmann resigned a month later to (unsuccessfully) contest the 2013 federal election and was replaced by Mehreen Faruqi.