11 Aug 2017

Euthanasia bill gets legal tick from Attorney-General

9:44 am on 11 August 2017

A bill proposing to legalise euthanasia has been given a legal tick by the Attorney-General, who said it would not infringe basic human rights if enacted.

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Photo: 123rf

The bill was proposed by ACT and the party's leader, David Seymour, said he was pleased his End of Life Choice Bill passed the legal hurdle.

Proposed laws are tested using routine assessments by Attorney-General Chris Finlayson, who weighs legal validity under overarching legislation such as the Bill of Rights Act.

ACT Party David Seymour 21 June 2017

David Seymour Photo: VNP / Daniela Maoate-Cox

In a report (PDF, 1.2KB), Mr Finlayson said the bill was consistent with rights regarding freedom of conscience and freedom of expression.

His report related to the legal framework, not any moral or philosophical questions.

Mr Seymour's bill provides for a legal landscape in which people with a terminal illness or a ''grievous or irremediable'' medical condition [have] the option of requesting assisted dying".

"It allows people who so choose, and are eligible under this bill, to end their lives in peace and dignity, surrounded by loved ones.''

The bill sets out a framework, such as being over 18, for those suffering from a terminal illness, in an advanced state of irreversible decline, or experiencing unbearable suffering.

Mr Finlayson found the bill was inconsistent with the Bill of Rights on age, meaning the 18+ threshold was deemed legally restrictive.

Mr Seymour said he was pleased.

"Critics of my bill, short of substantive arguments, have called it 'poorly drafted'.

"[The] report from the Attorney-General debunks those claims.

"Opponents will now need to explain why they would not allow dying people, in extreme suffering, to have a choice about how and when they die - rather than hiding behind those straw men.

"The report says that the eligibility criteria are narrow enough, and the safeguards strict enough, that the bill will not cause wrongful deaths, and that assisted dying will be available only to the group the bill intends - incurably or terminally ill, and in unbearable suffering."

Mr Seymour said the bill, due for debate in Parliament after the election, could be passed with the age threshold intact.

Last week, Parliament's health committee released its report (PDF, 829KB) into euthanasia and assisted dying, and was criticised for failing to make any recommendations.

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