Looking back to look forward—the history of VAD laws in Australia and future law reform in the Australian territories

Article


Braun, Kerstin. 2024. "Looking back to look forward—the history of VAD laws in Australia and future law reform in the Australian territories." Medical Law Review. 32 (1), pp. 42-60. https://doi.org/10.1093/medlaw/fwad030
Article Title

Looking back to look forward—the history of VAD laws in Australia and future law reform in the Australian territories

ERA Journal ID33613
Article CategoryArticle
AuthorsBraun, Kerstin
Journal TitleMedical Law Review
Journal Citation32 (1), pp. 42-60
Number of Pages19
Year2024
PublisherOxford University Press
Place of PublicationUnited Kingdom
ISSN0967-0742
1464-3790
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)https://doi.org/10.1093/medlaw/fwad030
Web Address (URL)https://academic.oup.com/medlaw/advance-article/doi/10.1093/medlaw/fwad030/7268822?utm_source=advanceaccess&utm_campaign=medlaw&utm_medium=email
Abstract

Taking one’s own life or attempting to do so has long been decriminalised in Australia. Aiding, counselling, or inciting another person to kill him or herself, however, remains a criminal offence. Yet, all six Australian States have now introduced laws allowing assistance in dying under certain circumstances. This article traces the recent history of Voluntary Assisted Dying (VAD) laws in Australia. It examines the introduction of the world’s first assisted dying legislation in the Northern Territory in 1995 followed by the Federal Government’s 1997 deprivation of the Territories’ power to legislate on assisted dying invalidating said law. It further considers the fifty-seven failed Bills attempting to achieve law reform in this context in Australian jurisdictions between 1993 and 2017 with a view to identifying what factors may have contributed to the continuing lack of success. This article then outlines the rapid introduction of VAD laws in all six Australian States decriminalising VAD over the span of only 5 years. It ponders what may have changed to bring about this law reform. This article closes by contemplating potential future law reform in the Australian Territories, which have been reinstated with jurisdiction to legislate on VAD in December 2022.

KeywordsAdvocacy, Assisted dying, Australia, Law reform, Political support, Public support
Contains Sensitive ContentDoes not contain sensitive content
ANZSRC Field of Research 2020480401. Criminal law
480412. Medical and health law
480406. Law reform
Byline AffiliationsSchool of Law and Justice
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