New Law To Allow Assisted Suicide To Critically Ill Patients In Austria

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By: Neelabh Bafna
Updated: 03 January, 2022 8:16 pm IST

NEW DELHI: The Austrian parliament on Thursday voted to legalize assisted suicide from January. The decision came after a court ruling said that its ban breached fundamental human rights. Assisted Suicide Act gives the option of an advance directive similar to a living will. This would be applicable only to people above 18 years of age and are terminally ill or have suffered from a permanent, debilitating condition.

After gaining approval from two doctors, patients must wait for 12 weeks or at least two weeks in case of a terminal illness. If they still want to go ahead after this waiting period, they can then get lethal drugs at a pharmacy after giving notification to a lawyer or notary. To prevent abuse, the names of pharmacies that sell these drugs will only be disclosed to lawyers and notaries who receive these notifications, and will not be advertised publicly.

Parliament approved this new law in December, following a constitutional court ruling on the issue. Assisted suicide, where a person is given the permission to end his or her own life, is legal in Switzerland. It’s also been decriminalised in several European countries, including Spain, Belgium, and Netherlands. Active assistance to suicide will remain outlawed in Austria, and the new rules explicitly exclude minors or those with mental health conditions.

Critics have described the procedure in Switzerland as one of the few countries in the world that allows assisted suicide for non-resident foreigners as a form of “suicide tourism.”

An absolute ban on assisted dying was lifted by a federal court in Austria last year, which ruled that it violated the right of self-determination. Before the new rules were approved by parliament in December 2021. Some political opponents argued that it placed too many hurdles in the way of those seeking assisted dying.

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