How to legally murder a person in Australia, legal suicide

How to legally murder a person in Victoria

Action films take murder lightly. With the use of a gun or a knife; a person’s life can end. Life goes on. In the real world, this is not the case. The right to die requires you tick many boxes. You need lawyers and doctors to help you on the journey to legally end your life. It is an expensive and time-consuming process. You must be fighting fit to take on the process – which is kind of not the point.

Euthanasia is where you intentionally end your life. Often with the help of others. To qualify you argue an incurable condition. And that you want to kill yourself to end pain and suffering.

Victoria was the first State to legalise euthanasia. (The previous attempt in the Northern Territory was euthanised by Canberra.) Since the terms ‘murder’ and ‘suicide’ didn’t seem popular the process is called ‘voluntary assisted dying’.

According to Victorian legislation:

‘every patient approaching their end of life has a right to minimise suffering and maximise their quality of life’

While God may not be happy, the government allows you to end your pain.

Many tests before someone can help you kill yourself

How do you qualify for voluntary assisted dying in Victoria?

  1. You are 18 or older
  2. You have an advanced disease that is likely to cause your death within a period of 6 months or 12 months for neurodegenerative disease
  3. living in Victoria for at least 12 months
  4. Australian citizen or permanent resident
  5. Have decision-making capacity. Be of sound mind. Be rational.
  6. Diagnosed with a disease, illness or medical condition that is incurable, advanced, progressive and causes death, with intolerable suffering. (It is not enough to merely sport a disability or a mental illness.)

If you can get through the above bureaucracy then you are allowed to ‘self-administer’ lethal drugs. If after dealing with months of lawyers and doctors you have no energy left then a friendly doctor can give you the lethal drugs. The legislation uses the rather delightful expression ‘practitioner administration’.

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Formal application for voluntary assisted dying

So, what does the formal application process entail? The legislation is a disgusting mess. Few can understand the complex wording.

Three  steps for voluntary assisted dying in Victoria

  1. The first step is a request made directly by the patient to a medical practitioner. This request is followed by an initial assessment to determine the patient’s suitability, and it is presided over by a ‘coordinating medical practitioner’. Another doctor, defined as a ‘consulting medical practitioner’, will conduct a second assessment of the patient’s admissibility.
  2. The second request, in the form of a written declaration signed before two witnesses and the coordinating medical practitioner, is made by the patient.
  3. Then, as part of a third application stage, the patient makes a third and final request to the coordinating medical practitioner at least nine days after the first request was made. This is unless death is likely to occur before.

The coordinating medical practitioner conducts a final review. This is to certify the request and assessment process. The doctor applies for a permit, either for ‘self-administration’, or ‘practitioner administration’.

This entire process is monitored by the Voluntary Assisted Dying Review Board. This is to ensure compliance and safety. Naturally, a patient is entitled to change their mind at any stage and opt out of the process.

Not using the authority once you get the right to voluntary assisted dying

What we have found in both Victoria and Western Australia is that the person suffering gains a lot of ‘power’ or ‘strength’ to know that they now have the right and authority to end their life, legally.

And from what we are finding a lot do not take the final step.

I think having the right to legally take your own life to be of comfort.

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Is euthanasia suicide?

Is euthanasia suicide? If so, should it be discouraged?  The occurrence of suicide tends to shock people. People can be shocked at the thought of someone ending their own life and leaving their loved ones behind. In some situations, it is thought of as selfish or even cowardly.

Another pressing issue is the irony of the involvement of medical practitioners in Voluntary Assisted Dying. The philosophy of ‘do no harm’ as stated in the Hippocratic Oath is an important concept in medicine. Ending a person’s life in any stage of illness does not necessarily comply with the philosophy underlining the Oath.

“The argument is, what is the greater harm? Is the greater harm continuing on with treatments? Is the greater harm watching someone suffer? Or is the greater harm killing them?”  – Dr. Michael Gold

With medical practitioner’s engaging in the training necessary to conduct assessments on patients who wish to undergo Voluntary Assisted Dying, it doesn’t seem like medical practitioners are overly concerned about the implications their involvement has on the aforementioned oath. In the eyes of a traditionalist, this may seem concerning, but with a new belief that ‘a person’s quality of death is part of their quality of life’, it may be time to modernise the oath to involve the pursuit of ending suffering and improving quality of life.

Most religions disapprove of Euthanasia and suicide. The main reason is that God forbids it and human life is considered special and sacred.  In the Pope’s view, euthanasia is always wrong. Purposely killing a person by ‘humanely’ poisoning them with a large dose of drugs goes against the value of the commandment ‘you shall not kill’. The Roman Catholic Church is one such organisation that opposes Euthanasia.

“From an ethical standpoint, withholding or withdrawing excessive treatment is completely different from euthanasia, which is always wrong, in that the intent of euthanasia is to end life and cause death.” – The Pope

Muslims are also against Voluntary Assisted Dying. Muslims believe that all human life is sacred because it is given by Allah, and Allah chooses how long each person lives.

“Do not take life, which Allah made sacred, other than in the course of justice.”

  • Qur’an 17:33

“Destroy not yourselves. Surely Allah is ever merciful to you.”

  • Qur’an 4:29

People in the later stages of a disease with no cure are provided palliative care. This involves care that helps a person living with a disease that severely impacts on their wellbeing, thus reducing the suffering a patient endures. But what happens if palliative care is not enough? What happens if no form of assistance enables a person to live a reasonable quality of life before an impending death? If palliative care does not improve a patient’s quality of life it may be time to facilitate Voluntary Assisted Dying.

Despite recognition that there are different views on the subject within the medical profession, the AMA (Australian Medical Association), which describe the process as ‘physician assisted suicide’, believes that doctors should not be involved in ending a person’s life. Although the AMA does not support these new laws, they do not believe that medical practitioners who support or participate in Voluntary Assisted Dying are unethical.

This seemed to be position when Victoria passed the legislation. I am finding the AMA’s position softening, especially with the passing of the Western Australian legislation.

Dr Brett Davies Dr Andrew Miller Voluntary assisted dying

Former head of the AMA Dr Andrew Miller together with Professor Brett Davies at the Law Society seminar on voluntary assisted dying. 26 August 2021

With Victoria being the first state to legalise euthanasia, there is a growing demand to legalise the practice in other states. Hence, the Victorian laws have sparked a ‘national domino effect’ to legalise euthanasia. Western Australian laws have been passed.

Tasmania Voluntary assisted dying

In Tasmania, the End-of-Life Choices (Voluntary Assisted Dying) Act 2021 (Tas) received Royal assent on 22 April 2021.

The inaugural appointments to the Voluntary Assisted Dying Commission are announced.

The Commission is jointly appointed by the Attorney-General and Minister for Health, with its primary role to oversee the operation of the Act, and its key responsibilities include:

  • Monitoring and reporting on the operation of the Act
  • Providing assistance to persons who want to access voluntary assisted dying
  • Issuing authorisations and approvals as required by the Act
  • Reviewing applications and decisions as specified within the Act
  • Making and approving procedures, policies and guidelines in relation to the operation of voluntary assisted dying, as stated in the Act
  • Communicating concerns about compliance or non-compliance with the Act

The Voluntary Assisted Dying Commission started in May 2022. But business of the act only started operating in Tasmania from 23 October 2022.

Voluntary assisted dying: schemes in place in Australia (Fed)

Victoria: Voluntary assisted dying is legal in Victoria under the Voluntary Assisted Dying Act 2017 (Vic) which came into
force in Victoria on 19 June 2019.

Western Australia: Voluntary assisted dying started in Western Australia on 1 July 2021 under the
Voluntary Assisted Dying Act 2019 (WA).

Queensland: In Queensland, the Voluntary Assisted Dying Bill 2021 was introduced into parliament on 25 May 2021.

South Australia: In South Australia, the Voluntary Assisted Dying Bill 2020 was introduced to parliament on 5 May 2021 and passed in the Legislative Council. If the Bill is passed in the House of Assembly, it is anticipated that voluntary assisted dying will become legal in South Australia in the next 18–24 months.

For legal advice telephone us. We are a law firm. We can help you answer the questions as you build your POA.

Adj Professor, Dr Brett Davies, CTA, AIAMA, BJuris, LLB, LLM, MBA, SJDHow to legally murder a person in Australia, legal suicide
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