The current law in Australia

What is legal in Australia now?

  • By 1 February 2023, five out of the six states that have passed Voluntary Assisted Dying (VAD) laws will have their schemes operating. The NSW law will take effect on 28 November 2023. Under these new state VAD laws, terminally ill adults who meet the strict eligibility criteria can apply to access legal voluntary assisted dying.
  • Refusing unwanted, painful and futile medical treatment leading to death from the illness is still a legal end-of-life option.
  • Refusing food and drink leading to death from starvation and dehydration is also legal.
  • Being administered large doses of pain-relieving drugs, even though this may hasten death is a common practice and it is legal as long as the primary intention of the doctor is to relieve end-of-life pain or suffering.
  • Being put into a permanent state of unconsciousness leading to death is another legal option but it is rarely done at the explicit request of the dying individual and doctors who initiate this treatment are working in a grey area of the law.

 

What is illegal in Australia now? 

  • Voluntary assisted dying laws have been passed in all states but if someone acts outside the legal framework of the VAD schemes, they should be aware that it is a crime for any person, medically qualified or not, to aid or abet another person to commit or attempt to commit suicide.

See our Terminology page for definitions.

Please see our Advance Care Planning page for the current Australian law regarding communicating to your doctor the medical treatment that you would like to have, or would not like to have, especially if you are no longer able to communicate your wishes.

The Australian Centre for Health Law at the Queensland University of Technology has established an excellent website which explains the legal issues around end-of-life care and decision-making. We encourage you to visit this site for reliable and up-to-date information.  Click for their website