Euthanasia, human rights and the law issues paper



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Euthanasia, human rights and the law

ISsues paper

May 2016



Table of Content

ISsues paper 1

1Introduction 5

1.1Terminology 5

2Passive voluntary euthanasia 6

2.1Current practice 6

(a)Good medical practice 6

(b)Legislation 7

(i)Advance directives 8

(ii)Enduring powers of attorney or guardianship. 9

(c)Common law 9

(i)Case law 10



2.2Comparative international legislative schemes 11

(a)United States of America 11

(b)United Kingdom 11

(c)Canada 11

2.3Summary 11

3Active voluntary euthanasia 12

3.1Arguments against legalising active voluntary euthanasia 12

(a)Role of the doctor 12

(b)Palliative care 13

(c)Slippery slope 13

3.2Arguments in support of legalising active voluntary euthanasia 14

(a)Legitimacy and transparency 14

(b)Personal autonomy – the right to choose 14

3.3Current legal framework 15

(a)Where the patient (in excruciating pain) requests the doctor to relieve pain and the doctor administers increased doses of pain-killing drugs that hasten the patient’s death 15

(i)Common law 16

(ii)Legislation 16

(b)Where the patient wants to die and asks the doctor for assistance (prescribing drugs, setting up a mechanism, providing advice) but the lethal act is performed by the patient rather than the doctor 19

(i)Criminal law 19

(ii)How is the law enforced? 19

(c)Where the patient wants to die and asks the doctor for assistance where the lethal act is performed by the doctor 20

(i)Criminal law 20

(ii)How is the law enforced? 20

4Legislative attempts to regulate active voluntary euthanasia 20

4.1Rights of the Terminally Ill Act 1995 (NT) 21

(a)Constitutional issues 22

4.2Medical Services (Dying with Dignity) Exposure Draft Bill 2014 (Cth) 22

(a)Senate Inquiry/Constitutional issues 22

(i)The medical services power 23

(ii)The corporations power 23

(iii)The territories power 23



(iv)Implied powers 24

(b)Consequences of constitutional invalidity 24

4.3International legislative schemes 24

(a)The Netherlands 24

(b)Belgium 25

(c)Luxembourg 25

(d)Switzerland 25

(e)The United States of America (states of Oregon, Washington, Vermont, Montana) 25

(f)Canada 26

4.4Summary 27

5International human rights issues and considerations 28

5.1Right to life 28

5.2Right to freedom from cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment 31

5.3Right to privacy 32

5.4Rights of people with disability 34

5.5Freedom of thought, conscience and religion 35

6Analysis 36

7Commentary 37

(a)Passive voluntary euthanasia 37

(b)Active voluntary euthanasia 38

1 Introduction 3

1.1 Terminology 3

2 Passive voluntary euthanasia 4

2.1 Current practice 4

2.2 Comparative international legislative schemes 8

2.3 Summary 9

3 Active voluntary euthanasia 10

3.1 Arguments against legalising active voluntary euthanasia 10

3.2 Arguments in support of legalising active voluntary euthanasia 12

3.3 Current legal framework 13

4 Legislative attempts to regulate active voluntary euthanasia 18

4.1 Rights of the Terminally Ill Act 1995 (NT) 19

4.2 Medical Services (Dying with Dignity) Exposure Draft Bill 2014 (Cth) 20

4.3 International legislative schemes 22

4.4 Summary 25

5 International human rights issues and considerations 26

5.1 Right to life 26

5.2 Right to freedom from cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment 29

5.3 Right to privacy 30

5.4 Rights of people with disability 32

5.5 Freedom of thought, conscience and religion 33

6 Analysis 34

7 Commentary 35



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