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Euthanasia: Mercy Or Murder? The Adequacy Of Australian And International Law.

1661 words - 7 pages

With the huge advancement of medical technology during the past 200 years, most people are now living longer, healthier, lives. However these discoveries also put before society an ethical and moral dilemma. The advance in medical technology currently allows us to keep people alive; even if their quality of life is so poor they wish to die. With growing outcries from the Australian public, it has become imperative for old laws to be revised and euthanasia to be made legal. This assignment will examine current laws in Australia regarding euthanasia and their adequacy and relevancy. Euthanasia laws in the Netherlands and Australia will also be considered.Euthanasia, derived from a Greek term meaning a 'good death, is defined as, "The act or practice of ending the life of an individual suffering from a terminal illness or and incurable condition, by lethal injection or the suspension of extraordinary medical treatment."(Http:// There are three main categories of euthanasia. These are, the termination of life through non treatment, life shortening palliative care and death by direct euthanasia (lethal injection). In Australia all three methods of euthanasia are currently illegal. According to the law, "Any person who takes steps to shorten the life of another is guilty of murder" and "The fact that a person may consent to their own death does not in any way excuse the person who causes the death." (Biggs et al (2003 p.355) However there are exceptions to the law. These exceptions include, a patient refusing treatment, patient committing suicide and the 'Double Effects Principle'. The 'Double Effects Principle' is when a doctor administers a drug with consent of the patient in order to lessen their pain. Even if the second effect of the drug hastens the death of the patient, the doctor is deemed not guilty of murder. Although euthanasia and assisted suicide is illegal, law makers in Australia have made some attempts to change these laws, to the more relevant ones society needs.On 25 May 1995, the 'rights of the terminally ill' bill allowing medical practitioners to perform voluntary euthanasia or assist in suicide of terminally ill patients was passed through the Northern Territory parliament. While the law was in effect, four people were able to end their suffering under its assisted-suicide provision including a "Darwin man suffering from prostate cancer. He became the first (publicly acknowledged) person to die with Dr Philip Nitschke's "death machine."(A laptop hooked up to an arterial line which, when a button on screen is touched, administers a lethal injection.) He passed away on Sunday 22nd September 1996." Http:// (1999) (Appendix A) Unfortunately pressure from religious groups and pro life campaigners saw the new laws abolished after only eight months. To further bury this issue another law entitled Suicide Related Materials Offences Act was passed, making it an offence "in...

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