Get Instant Help From 5000+ Experts For

Writing: Get your essay and assignment written from scratch by PhD expert

Rewriting: Paraphrase or rewrite your friend's essay with similar meaning at reduced cost

Editing:Proofread your work by experts and improve grade at Lowest cost

And Improve Your Grades
Phone no. Missing!

Enter phone no. to receive critical updates and urgent messages !

Attach file

Error goes here

Files Missing!

Please upload all relevant files for quick & complete assistance.

Guaranteed Higher Grade!
Free Quote

Describe the Health Law for Voluntary Euthanasia in Australia.

Introduction to Voluntary Euthanasia and its Supporters and Opponents

Voluntary euthanasia is a concept which is still unlawful in Australia. There are different nations which have legalized voluntary euthanasia but Australia is yet to bring out an effective and comprehensive legislation which could allow for a person to end their life voluntarily. In the Northern Territory, a law was passed to legalize voluntary euthanasia, but the same was later on repealed through the commonwealth act. There is a Victorian legislation which is set to allow and legalize voluntary euthanasia in Victoria from mid 2019. However, this legislation has time to be implemented and one cannot be sure if it will actually come in application, owing to the history of Australia. There have been numerous attempts in the past to legalize voluntary euthanasia in Australian states earlier also, but none have beared any fruit. There are a lot of supporting and dissenting views which are given in context of voluntary euthanasia. This article covers a detail on the numerous attempts which have been made in different states of Australia to legalize voluntary euthanasia, the organizations supporting and opposing this concept and the views which oppose and support voluntary euthanasia.

Keywords: Voluntary euthanasia, Australia, ending life, ethics, moral, euthanasia, legislations

Voluntary euthanasia denotes the practice where a person ends their life in a painless manner. There are different ways of ending the life in a voluntary manner to be deemed as voluntary euthanasia. These include asking for help for ending the life, refusal to eat, refusal of burdensome medical treatment, and asking for the life support machine to be turned off or for the medical treatment to be stopped. Where a person does not wish to continue living their life, they opt for voluntary euthanasia. It is also referred to as assisted dying, where the medical assistance is taken to end the life of a person. The theme of voluntary euthanasia is to put an end to the pain and the suffering which an individual is going through. This is particularly supported in cases where it is clear that the person’s situation has no scope of getting improved or better and the gravity of situation makes it better to end the life of such person.

Voluntary euthanasia is a debated topic where some people support it and others oppose it. The supporters of voluntary euthanasia cite the right of a person to live in a dignified manner and the right of a person to be free of pain and sufferings. The opponents of voluntary euthanasia cite the chances of this concept being misused based on personal greed, person living a natural life, and ending life being deemed as a measure to avoid the hardships of life. Even though the majority of nations across the globe treat euthanasia as unlawful, the nations like Switzerland, Canada, the Netherlands, Luxemburg, Colombia and Belgium treat voluntary euthanasia as legal. This discussion focuses on the different steps taken by Australia to legalize voluntary euthanasia, including the different bills and acts which had been proposed.

Legalization Attempts of Voluntary Euthanasia in Different States of Australia

In Australia, on the federal level, voluntary euthanasia continues to be illegal, but there have been certain legislations been passed by states in this regard. In Northern Territory, voluntary euthanasia was made legal for a certain period. November 2017 saw a legislation being passed whereby the assisted suicide was set to be allowed and this was passed on the Parliament of Victoria. However, this legislation will come into effect in the latter half of 2019. This would allow the patient to choose to not get any treatment where the person is suffering from terminal illness; further, the person also has the right of choosing to turn off the life support machines.

  • Present situation

Even though at present assisting in euthanasia is a crime, as was seen in Justins v R, there have been rare cases of prosecution. There had been a case in 2002 where the friends and relatives of an elderly woman were extensively investigated by the police as the woman had committed suicide after the friends and relatives had given her moral support. This instance resulted in the Commonwealth Government making attempts to hinder euthanasia by Criminal Code Amendment (Suicide Related Materials Offences) Bill of 2004 being passed.

In 2005, a nurse was convicted in Tasmania State for assisting in her elderly father’s death suffering from terminal cancer. This was done as her father was trying to kill her mother owing to the early stages of dementia. As a result of this incident, she had been sentenced to 2.5 years of jail. Later on though, the judges suspended her conviction as in the view of the judge, the community did not want the nurse to be put behind the bars. This incident sparked a debate on euthanasia being decriminalized. There are a lot of supporters of voluntary euthanasia being decriminalized and included in this is the Liberal Democratic Party, the Reason Party, the Secular Party of Australia, Australian Greens, and the Science Party. Some TV ads were made by Exit International where they argued for voluntary euthanasia. These advertisements were banned in September 2010 just before they had been scheduled to be broadcasted.

Shirley Justins and Caren Jennings were held to be guilty of manslaughter and of being an accessory to manslaughter respectively in 2009. This was due to the fact that they had provided Nembutal in 2006 to a former pilot, Graeme Wylie. As per Justin, Waylie had the wish of dying with dignity. It was argued from the prosecution side that Wylie lacked the mental capacity of making such critical decisions of brining his life to an end, which could result in this case being deemed as involuntary euthanasia. Australian Capital Territory v JT clarified that an omission in giving the life sustaining medical treatment was deemed as legal in the nation, till such time where the patient is shown to be incapable mentally of giving consent.

Northern Territory's Rights of the Terminally III Act and Euthanasia Laws Act

In R v Mathews, the Supreme Court of NSW, in 2011, awarded two years of suspended sentence to sixty six year old person who had facilitated in the demise of his 78 year old partner by assisting her in getting a drug overdose and by suffocating her. The lady who had been killed by the man suffered from a spinal condition which gave her severe pain. She had even expressed that she wished to die in the suicide note written by her before she had died. This led to the man been convicted of manslaughter. The substantial impairment of the accused was taken into consideration by the court at the point when this act had been committed, along with the fact that he had revealed his involvement in commissioning of offence in a voluntary manner.

Rights of the Terminally III Act, 1995 legalized euthanasia in NT in Australia, which had been passed by 15 to 10 votes. In August 1996, just one year after the act was formed a repeal bill was brought in the Parliament of NT, which was defeated by 14 to 11 votes. However, with the passing of Euthanasia Laws Act, 1997, which was an Australian Parliament statute, the Norfolk Island Act, 1979, the Northern Territory (Self-Government) Act, 1978, and the Australian Capital Territory (Self-Government) Act, 1988 were amended to remove the power which was given to the different territories of Australia where they could legalize euthanasia.

The result of the Euthanasia Laws Act, 1997 was specific repealing of the Rights of the Terminally III Act, 1995. The powers of the Norfolk Island legislatures, the Northern Territory and the Australian Capital Territory are not similar to the ones given to the State legislatures in terms of being guaranteed by Australian Constitution. As a result of this, these can be overruled or amended by the Australian Commonwealth. Though, before this amendment was made by the Commonwealth government, three people had ended their life through physician assisted suicide based on the applicable legislation and this had been aided by Dr Philip Nitschke. The repealing of act got interest of the Liberal Democrats Senator David Leyonhjelm. 

The South Australian House of Assembly, in 2016 November, rejected the private member’s bill narrowly which could have legalized right of requesting for voluntary euthanasia in such cases where a person had to bear unbearable suffering and pain owing to terminal illness. This was the first ever euthanasia bill which passed its second reading getting 27 to 19 votes. However, this bill was later on rejected when the clauses debate of this bill was going on, with 23 votes, and with that of the vote of speaker being against this bill.

Tasmania's Voluntary Euthanasia Bill

In November 2013, Tasmania came very close to the legalization of voluntary euthanasia. This was made possible due to the Greens initiative where the voluntary euthanasia bill was marginally defeated by a vote of 13 to 12 votes in the House of Assembly. Had this bill been passed, it would have permitted the terminally ill individuals of Tasmania to end their lives within ten days of three separate requests being made to their doctor. Even though both of the major parties did permit a conscience vote in this case, all of the ten Liberals had voted against this legislation, where the Labor was split where seven favoured this bill and three went against it, and all the five Greens went in favour of this bill.

The National Party MLC, Trevor Khan, on 21st September 2017 had introduced the Voluntary Assisted Dying Bill, 2017 in the NSW Parliament. This bill was modelled on the Oregon Death with Dignity Act, 1997. This had also been developed where cross party working group had taken into consideration seventy two major submissions. A raft of safeguards also formed a part of this bill which covered a 7 person oversight board for the purpose of reviewing the assisted deaths. This bill was debated by the upper house across different sittings in November 2017. On 16th November, 2017, this bill was voted down 20-19.

The Victorian Parliament saw the introduction of the Voluntary Assisted Dying Bill, 2017 on September 20th 2017 by Andrews Labor Government. The modelling of this bill was based on the recommendations of the expert panel chaired by Professor Brian Owler who was the former president of the Australian Medical Association. This bill was finally passed by the parliament where certain amendments were made on 29th November 2017 in the Victorian Legislative Council. Victoria became the very first state in passing the bill where the voluntary assisted dying was legislated. Presuming that this bill receives its formal royal assent, the law is set to come into effect in middle of 2019.

The peak organization which nationally represents and supports the slogan of dying with dignity is the euthanasia advocacy group known as They represent the different associations of Tasmania, NSW, Queensland, and Victoria. The other organizations working in this regard include the Northern Territory Voluntary Euthanasia Society (NTVES), the South Australian Voluntary Euthanasia Society (SAVES), and the Western Australian Voluntary Euthanasia Society (WAVES). Philip Nitschke founded Exit International for supporting euthanasia. There are other groups as well which include Doctors for Voluntary Euthanasia Choice and Christians Supporting Choice for Voluntary Euthanasia. There are organizations and institutions which oppose the legislation of euthanasia and included in these are the Australian Catholic Church and HOPE.

New South Wales and Victoria's Voluntary Assisted Dying Bills

There are a lot of substantial points which the supporters and proponents of euthanasia make, in presenting the case of euthanasia. The supporters of euthanasia believe that a person is to be given their basic right of living the way they want to. So, where the person feels that living would degrade their life and they would not be able to live in a dignified manner, they should be given the freedom of ending their life. The other point given in support of euthanasia is that not only does the individual who bears all the pain and sufferings suffers, but their family members and closed ones also have to go through the constant pain of seeing their loved ones going through unbearable pain and sufferings. For instance, a person suffering from Secondary Progressive Multiple Sclerosis needs to be allowed to end their life, as living their life would only bring them more suffering and pain.

The opponents of euthanasia, on the other hand claim that to give a person choice of ending their life is against the sanctity of life. A person is supposed to die naturally and if for the fear of pain and sufferings, a person is allowed to end their life, the value of life would diminish, and ending life would be seen as a synonym of taking the easy way out. Stephen Hawking is remarkable example of living despites the hardships which life presents. There is a need to inculcate such will towards life, instead of treating as a source of pain and sufferings. There are a number of other examples, who have fought the hardships of life and decided to uphold the sanctity of life. There is also the chance of voluntary euthanasia being misused for various greed purposes. Even with a person giving consent to die, one cannot be sure of a real consent being given on voluntary death. The issue of consent and misuse of this concept has resulted in a law not being passed in the nation till date to support voluntary euthanasia.


Thus, on the basis of discussion in the previous segments, it can be concluded that voluntary euthanasia has fair share of supporters and opponents, where each side presents valid reasoning to support their idea. Voluntary euthanasia allows a person to end their life, particularly where such person goes through sufferings and pain. To live in a dignified manner is the right of every person and as a result of this there is a need for giving the individuals the right of ending their life as a right too. However, the opponents of voluntary euthanasia provide that there are high chances of this concept being misused. There is also the concept of dignity and sanctity of life being discarded when voluntary euthanasia is allowed. What would happen if every person decides to end their life on facing hardships is the key theme behind denying voluntary euthanasia being formed as a law.

Organizations Supporting and Opposing Voluntary Euthanasia

Further, there are also chances of a treatment being brought in the near or foresighted future which would allow for the pain and suffering of the person to be dismissed, if not ended. But if the person is not alive to get such treatment, as a result of choosing voluntary euthanasia, they would never be cured. Conversely, there are cases where there are no chances or near sighted future has no capacity of getting a treatment for such person to be cured. Even in such cases, to lose the will of living and to select the end of life is a harsh decision, despite the numerous points given in support of this. This is possibly the reason for voluntary euthanasia still not being legalized in Australia. Even with a legislation expected to come in force in middle of 2019, it is still a year far, and till it is actually implemented and continued, voluntary euthanasia would continue to be a crime in the nation.

Articles/ Book/ Journals

Battin MP, Rhodes R, and Silvers A, Physician Assisted Suicide: Expanding the Debate (Routledge, 2015)

Berman A, Snyder SJ, and Kozier B, Kozier & Erb's Fundamentals of Nursing Australian Edition (Pearson Higher Education AU, 3rd ed, 2014)

Black S, All That Remains: A Life in Death (Random House, 2018)

Colditz GA, Encyclopedia of Cancer and Society, Volume 1 (Sage, 2007)

Gorsuch NM, The Future of Assisted Suicide and Euthanasia (Princeton University Press, 2009)

Healey J, Voluntary Euthanasia (Spinney Press, 2008)

Healey J, Voluntary Euthanasia Debate (Spinney Press, 2013)

Lanham D, ‎David Wood and Bronwyn Bartal, Criminal Laws in Australia (Federation Press, 2006)

Mappes T, Zembaty J, and DeGrazia D, Social Ethics: Morality and Social Policy (McGraw-Hill Education, 8th ed, 2011)

Pozgar GD, Legal and Ethical Issues for Health Professionals (Jones & Bartlett Learning, 3rd ed, 2012)

Syme R, A Good Death: An Argument For Voluntary Euthanasia (Melbourne Univ. Publishing, 2008)

  • Cases

Australian Capital Territory v JT [2009] ACTSC 105 

Justins v R [2010] NSWCCA 242

R v Mathews [2011] NSWSC 339

  • Legislations

Australian Capital Territory (Self-Government) Act, 1988 (Cth)

Criminal Code Amendment (Suicide Related Materials Offences) Bill of 2004

Euthanasia Laws Act, 1997 (Cth)

Norfolk Island Act, 1979 (Cth)

Northern Territory (Self-Government) Act, 1978 (Cth)

Oregon Death with Dignity Act, 1997

Rights of the Terminally III Act, 1995 (NT)

Voluntary Assisted Dying Bill, 2017 (NSW)

Voluntary Assisted Dying Bill, 2017 (Vic)

  • Others

ABC News, Assisted suicide case prompts calls for euthanasia law review (20 December 2005) <>

ABC News, Euthanasia debate: NSW Parliament rejects bill on voluntary assisted dying (16 November 2017) <>

ABC News, Voluntary euthanasia: South Australian Parliament knocks back Death with Dignity euthanasia bill (17 November 2016) <>

Alexander C, Pro-euthanasia TV ad ban 'a violation of free speech' (13 September 2010) <>

Edwards J, Euthanasia: Victoria becomes the first Australian state to legalise voluntary assisted dying (29 November 2017) <>

Edwards J, Victoria's assisted dying bill to hit Parliament, to be voted on by end of year (19 September 2017) <>

Jacobsen G, Conviction overturned but retrial is pending (29 October 2010) <>

Jeanes T, Legal case reopens euthanasia debate (20 December 2005) <>

Jones LH, NT ACT euthanasia law ban must go: senator (03 November 2017) <>

Nicholls S, Oversight safeguard added to proposed assisted dying laws in NSW (18 September 2017) <>

OZMS, Euthanasia in Australia (2018) <>

Revolvy, Euthanasia in Australia (2018) <>

SBS News, Emotions high as assisted dying bill lands (21 September 2017) <>

Science Party, Freedom and Rights (2018) <>

Smiley S, Voluntary euthanasia law defeated by two votes (20 November 2013) <>

The World Federation of Right to Die Societies, Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide in Australia (2018) <>

Cite This Work

To export a reference to this article please select a referencing stye below:

My Assignment Help. (2019). Voluntary Euthanasia In Australia: Attempts To Legalize, Organizations, And Controversies. Retrieved from

"Voluntary Euthanasia In Australia: Attempts To Legalize, Organizations, And Controversies." My Assignment Help, 2019,

My Assignment Help (2019) Voluntary Euthanasia In Australia: Attempts To Legalize, Organizations, And Controversies [Online]. Available from:
[Accessed 17 July 2024].

My Assignment Help. 'Voluntary Euthanasia In Australia: Attempts To Legalize, Organizations, And Controversies' (My Assignment Help, 2019) <> accessed 17 July 2024.

My Assignment Help. Voluntary Euthanasia In Australia: Attempts To Legalize, Organizations, And Controversies [Internet]. My Assignment Help. 2019 [cited 17 July 2024]. Available from:

Get instant help from 5000+ experts for

Writing: Get your essay and assignment written from scratch by PhD expert

Rewriting: Paraphrase or rewrite your friend's essay with similar meaning at reduced cost

Editing: Proofread your work by experts and improve grade at Lowest cost

250 words
Phone no. Missing!

Enter phone no. to receive critical updates and urgent messages !

Attach file

Error goes here

Files Missing!

Please upload all relevant files for quick & complete assistance.

Plagiarism checker
Verify originality of an essay
Generate unique essays in a jiffy
Plagiarism checker
Cite sources with ease
sales chat
sales chat