Austria’s parliament on Thursday approved the legalization of assisted suicide for people with serious or incurable illnesses, in response to a court ruling that found the current ban violated fundamental rights.
A year ago, the Constitutional Court ordered the government to review legislation punishing assisted death with up to five years in prison.
Two doctors to assess each case
According to the text validated by all the parties with the exception of the far-right formation FPÖ, adults terminally ill or suffering from a permanent and debilitating illness will be able to benefit from assistance to end their life.
Two doctors will have to assess each case, one of whom will have to be qualified in palliative medicine. In particular, they will need to determine whether the patient is capable of making the decision independently. In addition, a period of at least twelve weeks must elapse before access to assisted suicide is granted, in order to ensure that the request is not due to a temporary crisis. This period will be reduced to two weeks for patients in the “terminal phase” of an illness.
108 million allocated to develop palliative care
This law works to respect human dignity, ruled Justice Minister Alma Zadic (Greens), quoted by the APA news agency, but it also aims to ensure that “no one chooses the path of death s’ there are other possibilities ”. To this end, a budget of 108 million euros has been allocated to develop palliative care.
The government unveiled its proposals in October, which were submitted for expert review before being presented to parliament. If no new regulations had been put in place by the end of December, the current ban on assisted dying would have simply lapsed, leaving the practice unregulated. Elsewhere in Europe, euthanasia has been legalized in the Benelux countries and in Spain.