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Western Australia becomes second state to legalize assisted suicide

assisted suicide, euthanasia, legalize assisted suicide, disabilities

Expanding the push towards legalized assisted suicide, the state of Western Australia has become the second in the country to legalize the practice as of July 1. 

The Voluntary Assisted Dying Act, passed by Western Australia’s government in 2019, has now gone into effect. The state, which is the country’s largest geographically, follows Victoria, which passed similar legislation legalizing the practice in 2017. Victoria’s law went into effect in mid-2019. As The Conversation reported, the states of Tasmania and South Australia are set to enact similar laws in the coming years.

According to guidelines published by Western Australia, a medical practitioner must determine that an individual has “at least one disease, illness or medical condition that is advanced, progressive and will cause death.” The condition must “cause death within a period of six months or in the case of a disease, illness or medical condition that is neurodegenerative, within a period of 12 months.” 

The law has limited conscience protections which still require objecting physicians to initiate the procedure. Physicians do not have to participate in assisted dying. However, on the first request of a qualifying individual, even objecting physicians must provide the individual with state-mandated resources, document in the individual’s medical record, and submit the First Request Form. The physician must also register the reason for his or her unwillingness to participate.

READ: Oregon has had 23 years of legal assisted suicide, but ranks worst in mental health care

Lana Glogowski, chief executive of Palliative Care WA, expressed concerns about the law’s effect on the future of end-of-life care. “Palliative care hasn’t had anywhere near the profile that we need. Voluntary assisted dying is accessed ultimately by less than 2 percent of the population,” she said according to ABC News. “What about the 98 percent of the population who won’t be accessing voluntary assisted dying? What are we doing to share with the vast majority of our community about how they plan for the last stage of their life?”

Following the trend that began in The Netherlands, which legalized euthanasia in 2002, many countries around the world are enacting similar legislation. But as Live Action News reported, the law’s tragic unintended consequences — particularly the negative effects on the vulnerable, people with disabilities, and others with non-fatal conditions — have left even former Dutch advocates like Theo Boer to become outspoken critics. As Boer said, “Look closely at the Netherlands because this is where your country may be 20 years from now. We have put in motion something that we have now discovered has more consequences than we ever imagined.”

Victoria has already seen a disturbing increase in assisted suicide in just two years since the law has been in force. As Live Action News reported, the number of people requesting assisted suicide was 10 times higher than what experts had anticipated.

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