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Monday 21 April 2014

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An Australian Timeline

The first Voluntary Euthanasia Societies in Australia were formed in New South Wales and Victoria in 1973, followed by a Society in Western Australia in 1980, South Australia in 1983, Queensland in 1987, Tasmania in 1992 and the Northern Territory in 1995.  The Voluntary Euthanasia Society of NSW has branches in the ACT and the Central Coast.

1995
Marshall Perron, Chief Minister of the Northern Territory, introduced his Rights of the Terminally Ill Act into the NT Legislative Assembly. The Rights of the Terminally Ill Act, became law in the Northern Territory, allowing terminally ill people the right to die (with strict guidelines in place) using active intervention from doctors.

In a conscience vote, Perron's legislation was passed by a majority of 15-10 after a 15 hour debate.  A period of time was set before enactment of the legislation for the development of regulations to control the law.

Prime Minister John Howard opposed the NT Rights of the Terminally Ill Act and left the way open for Federal Parliament to overturn the Territory's law.

South Australia's first Voluntary Euthanasia Bill was presented in 1995 by John Quirke but was rejected without a full debate.

1996
The NT Rights of the Terminally Ill Act became law. This was the first legislative approval for voluntary euthanasia to enable physicians to practice voluntary euthanasia.

Subsequently the Act faced a series of challenges from opponents of voluntary euthanasia.

The Full Bench of the Northern Territory Supreme Court rejected a challenge to the Rights of the Terminal Ill Act by NT AMA President, Chris Wake and Uniting Church Minister, Jiniyini Gondara. They announced that the case would be referred to the Australian High Court.

Victorian Liberal MHR, Kevin Andrews, as a Private Member, introduced his controversial Euthanasia Laws Bill, designed to overturn the Territory's law, into Federal Parliament.

Bob Dent, a Territorian suffering from terminal prostate cancer, became the first person in the world to receive legal voluntary euthanasia. Pro-euthanasia campaigner Dr Phillip Nitschke assisted Mr Dent to die using the NT laws.

The Andrews Bill was carried by a vote in the Federal House of Representatives, 88 votes to 35, thus overturning the Rights of the Terminal Ill Act.

1997
Voluntary Euthanasia Bill 1997 WA Legislative Council Second Reading - 16/10/1997, Private Members Bill introduced by West Australian The Hon. Mr Norm Kelly MLC

Voluntary Euthanasia Bill 1997—introduced in SA by Bob Such MP

South Australian, Janet Mills, suffering from skin disease Mycosis Fungoides, becomes the second person to use the Territory law after a long battle to obtain the necessary medical endorsement. A terminally ill Territorian with stomach cancer becomes the third person to die under the NT law.

The Medical Journal of Australia reveals that approximately 30% of all deaths in Australian hospitals may have involved a doctor hastening a patient's death.

A NSW mother of five suffering from terminal breast cancer is brought to the NT by her children and becomes the 4th person to make use of the NT law.

The Andrews' Bill was passed in the Federal Senate by 38 to 33 votes, ending legal assisted suicide in Australia.  An amendment, designed to allow the two people who had qualified to use the law to go ahead, was also defeated.

This Commonwealth legislation, the Euthanasia Laws Act, remains in force.

Ester Wild died in Darwin using slow overdose of morphine after the Northern Territory law was overturned by the Australian Federal Parliament. She had carcinoid syndrome.

Dr Philip Nitschke announced that he had assisted others to die, including a man from Victoria. He established an Internet site to promote his work and the pro-euthanasia cause.

NSW Greens Upper House MP Ian Cohen introduced his Rights of the Terminally Ill Bill.

Sandra Kanck in SA introduced the Dignity in Dying Bill 2001

2002
Senator Bob Brown (Australian Greens) announces plans to introduce a private members bill into the Senate to overturn the Euthanasia Laws Act 1997, and once again allow voluntary euthanasia in the Northern Territory.

Elizabeth Godfrey died in Hobart using a plastic bag from EXIT. Her son John was accused of assisting and stood trial. He received a one year suspended sentence.

NSW Greens Upper House MP Ian Cohen introduced a Voluntary Euthanasia Trial Referendum Bill calling for a medically-supervised voluntary euthanasia trial.

2005
Telco Bill, bought in by the Howard Government. The Bill introduced new offences of using a 'carriage service' (the internet, emails, mobile and fixed telephones, faxes, radio and TV) for the purposes of counselling or inciting suicide, or promoting or providing instruction on a particular method of suicide. Possession or supply etc of material that is intended to be used for such offences is also itself an offence. Entitled Criminal Code Amendment (Suicide Related Material Offences) Bill 2005.

2007
Voluntary Euthanasia Bill 2007—introduced by Hon Bob Such, South Australian MP

Dr John Elliott, dying of Multiple Myeloma, travelled to Switzerland to use the services of Dignitas.

Greens' leader Bob Brown's Rights of the Terminally Ill Bill 2007 has first reading in the Senate.

2008
In SA the Voluntary Euthanasia Bill 2008—was introduced by MP Hon Bob Such

The Senate referred Bob Brown's Repeal Bill to the Senate Standing Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs for inquiry and report. Read report.

The MEDICAL TREATMENT (PHYSICIAN ASSISTED DYING) BILL 2008 was introduced into the Victorian Legislative Council by upper house Greens MP Colleen Hartland. It passed the first reading, but was denied a second reading.

Caren Jenning and Shirley Justins convicted over death. A jury found Shirley Justins guilty of manslaughter and Caren Jenning of being an accessory to manslaughter in the case of Alzheimer's sufferer and former Qantas pilot Graeme Wylie.

2009
Dr Rodney Syme, Vice-President of Dying with Dignity, Victoria admits at a rally in Melbourne, that he gave advice and medication to terminally ill journalist, Steve Guest. Read report.  

Advance Directives became legal in WA. New laws giving adults the right to determine their future medical treatment in a so-called Living Will came into effect.

WA Greens MP Robin Chapple introduced his Voluntary Euthanasia Bill to parliament.

Tasmanian leader of the Greens Nick McKim tabled his Dying with Dignity Bill

NSW Supreme Court judgment - Hunter and New England Area Health Service v A [2009] NSWSC 761. In this case, the defendant (Mr A) was a patient in a hospital conducted by the plaintiff (the Area Health Service).  Mr A had developed renal failure and was being kept alive by mechanical ventilation and kidney dialysis. 

The Area Health Service became aware that Mr A had prepared a document indicating he would refuse dialysis and commenced legal proceedings seeking declarations that the document prepared by Mr A was a valid advance healthcare directive and that the Area Health Service would be justified in complying with Mr A's directive. 

Justice McDougall made the declarations sought by the Area Health Service. The case is important because it is the first NSW Supreme Court decision that summarises the relevant legal principles surrounding emergency care decisions and the status of advance healthcare directives. This was NSW first Common Law case establishing that advance health care directives are legally binding in NSW.

Brightwater Care Group (Inc) v Rossiter [2009] WASC 229
This was a decision of the Supreme Court of Western Australia given by Chief Justice Martin on 14 August 2009.  The judgment below refers to the above NSW Supreme Court decision.

Brightwater Care Group (Brightwater) operated a residential care facility in Perth for people with disabilities.  Mr Christian Rossiter (Mr Rossiter) was a resident of the Brightwater facility.  Mr Rossiter was quadriplegic and generally unable to move.  He was only able to talk through a tracheotomy.  He was unable to take nutrition or hydration orally.  The nutrition and hydration Mr Rossiter required to survive was provided by way of a tube inserted directly into his stomach.

Mr Rossiter indicated to his doctor and representatives of Brightwater on many occasions that he wanted to die.  He directed staff of Brightwater to discontinue the provision of nutrition and hydration through the tube to his stomach.  If the staff complied with Mr Rossiter's directive, he wiould die from starvation.

This case was different from other cases in that Mr Rossiter was not terminally ill, or dying.  He could communicate his wishes and had full mental capacity. Brightwater commenced legal proceedings seeking declarations about its rights and obligations.  It was concerned that complying with Mr Rossiter's directions might result in criminal prosecution.

After reviewing the position at common law and the relevant Western Australian statutory provisions, Chief Justice Martin made two declarations.  The first declaration was as follows:

"If after Mr Rossiter has been given advice by an appropriately qualified medical practitioner as to the consequences which would flow from the cessation of the administration of nutrition and hydration ...... Mr Rossiter requests that Brightwater cease administering such nutrition and hydration, then Brightwater may not lawfully continue administering nutrition and hydration unless Mr Rossiter revokes that direction, and Brightwater would not be criminally responsible for any consequences to the life or health of Mr Rossiter caused by ceasing to administer such nutrition and hydration to him."

2010
Your Last Right formed to access funding from the estate of Clem Jones on behalf of the state DWD organisations and to coordinate activities among them.

2012
Independent MP Bob Such introduced another VE Bill into the SA parliaments and secured the support of the Premier and some senior Ministers. His Bill was defeated by 22 votes to 20 in a conscience vote. Dr Such announced he would introduce a reworked Bill later in the year.

The Tasmanian Labor Premier joined with the leader of the Greens to prepare a Private Members Bill permitting voluntary euthanasia for introduction late in 2012 or early the following year.

Dying With Dignity ACT was formed and incorporated.

Senator Brown (Greens Leader) tried again to repeal the Euthanasia Laws Act (preventing the Territories from considering laws relating to voluntary euthanasia) but his Bill was referred to Committee.

as at 12 Oct 2012