News from Europe

Austria’s parliament legalises assisted suicide

Austrian lawmakers have approved a law that legalizes assisted suicide for seriously ill people, subject to tight rules. A law banning the practice was set to expire, which would have left the matter unregulated.


The Austrian parliament on Thursday voted to legalise assisted suicide from January after a court ruling said its ban breached fundamental human rights. The ban would have expired at the end of this year anyway, and the new legislation means it can only take place in accordance with strict criteria.

The Assisted Suicide Act gives the option of an advance directive — similar to a living will — only to people over 18 who are terminally ill or suffer from a permanent, debilitating condition.

Each case is to be assessed by two doctors, one of whom would have to be an expert in palliative medicine. As part of their duties, they must determine whether a patient is opting for euthanasia independently.

At least twelve weeks must pass before a patient is granted access to the procedure, to ensure that euthanasia is not being sought due to a temporary crisis. However, for patients in the “terminal phase” of an illness, the period can be shortened to two weeks.

The individual would then draw up their will with a notary or a patient advocate before being able to obtain a lethal drug from a pharmacist.


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