Australian state of Victoria approves euthanasia Bill in Parliament

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SYDNEY: The Parliament of Australia's second largest state passed legislation yesterday to allow terminally ill patients to seek medical help to end their lives, a Bill that is expected to act as a catalyst for the rest of the country to adopt similar laws.

The Bill permits any resident of Victoria state over 18, with a terminal illness and with less than 12 months to live to request a lethal dose of medication.

Anyone too ill to administer the dosage can ask for a doctor to help.

Many countries have legalised euthanasia or physician-assisted deaths, including Canada, the Netherlands and Switzerland.

But Australia's federal government has opposed legalising euthanasia even though the remote Northern Territory became the first jurisdiction in the world to do so in 1995.

The federal government enacted its own legislation to override the Northern Territory law in 1997 under rules allowed by the Constitution. State law cannot be overridden.

The passage of the Bill in Victoria is expected to herald assisted death legislation in other Australian states.

"It is a landmark moment. Other states are likely to follow. We have seen this in other jurisdictions, and I expect once politicians see how the system works, they will adopt similar models," said Mr Ben White, director of the Australian Centre for Health Law Research at Queensland University of Technology.

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews introduced the Bill following his father's death from cancer last year.

Members of the state assembly debated the emotive Bill through the night in a 26-hour session that ended with approval by 47 votes to 37.

The legislation needs the approval of Victoria Senate, though analysts expect it to pass into law.

It will not come into effect for 18 months to allow time to properly implement the assisted dying scheme. - REUTERS