People who are under 18 and are suffering from a terminal illness could be given the right to end their life under a new proposal in an ACT Government paper on Thursday.
Voluntary assisted dying (VAD) allows eligible people with terminal illnesses to choose the time and manner of their death.
The ACT Government paper said an assisted dying age restriction is seen as “arbitrary” by some. It was also believed to ignore the maturity and the ability of some teenagers to make important decisions.
ACT assisted dying laws
The ACT plans to legalise VAD and is currently in the process of creating draft laws to do this.
It released a paper featuring public views on Thursday, which will be used to inform the legislation.
VAD can be accessed by adults (people 18 and over) in most Australian states. There are specific conditions in place in each state, such as a person expecting death within six to 12 months.
In the report, the ACT Government said there was “strong support” for people under 18 with extreme pain to have the same end-of-life choices as adults.
How would it work?
The report suggested a pre-existing legal test that determines a young person’s ability to consent to medical treatment.
This testing would be applied on an individual basis. This would let the patient demonstrate if they have a sufficient understanding of assisted dying and its consequences.
Further safeguards for young people, such as consent from parents and counselling, were also suggested.
Further details on ACT assisted dying laws
A separate proposal allowing some non-ACT residents to access assisted dying in the territory was also put forward.
This would give people relying on the ACT health system – including those in regional NSW – access to assisted dying in the ACT.
Almost all public views supported the right of health professionals to object to being involved in voluntary assisted dying, provided they do not hinder a person’s access to VAD.
The Labor-Greens Government will now develop a framework for VAD. They will introduce draft laws to legalise the process later this year.
It won’t become legal the moment laws are passed – further measures will need to be created before patients can begin the process.
The Government has most of the seats in the one house of Parliament, and won’t need any further support for assisted dying legislation to pass.