Bills Digest 45 1996-97 Euthanasia Laws Bill 1996


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WARNING:
This Digest is prepared for debate. It reflects the legislation as introduced and does not canvass subsequent amendments.

This Digest was available from 17 October 1996.

CONTENTS

Passage History

Euthanasia Laws Bill 1996

Date Introduced: 9 September 1996
House: House of Representatives
Presented by: Mr Kevin Andrews MP
Commencement: On Royal Assent

Purpose

To prevent the Northern Territory, the Australian Capital Territory and Norfolk Island from passing certain laws permitting euthanasia.

Background

Rights of the Terminally Ill Act 1995 (NT)

On 22 February 1995, the then Chief Minister of the Northern Territory introduced the Rights of the Terminally Ill Bill into the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly as a Private Member's Bill. The Bill was immediately referred to a Select Committee which reported on 16 May 1995. The Committee received over 1,000 submissions, took oral evidence and conducted hearings in Darwin, in regional centres and in a number of Aboriginal communities.(1) Its report contained recommendations in relation to the Bill but made no recommendation on euthanasia per se.(2)

In the Legislative Assembly, the vote was 13 to 12 that the Bill be read a second time. In the Committee stage of debate, 50 amendments were introduced. On 25 May 1995, the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly passed the Rights of the Terminally Ill Act 1995 (the Act) by 15 votes to 10. The Act provides a statutory regime which makes lawful, in certain circumstances, physician-assisted suicide and active voluntary euthanasia. The Northern Territory Administrator assented to the Act on 16 June 1995.

Physician-assisted suicide occurs when a patient wants to die and asks their doctor for assistance in ending their life. While the doctor may provide the means of ending the patient's life - for example, by providing drugs, advice or a mechanism, the lethal act is performed by the patient rather than the doctor.(3)

Active voluntary euthanasia can be described as medical intervention, at a patient's request, in order to end the patient's life(4) or hasten their death.(5)

The Act has survived a number of attempts at repeal. On 20 February 1996, the Member for MacDonnell in the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly sought leave to have standing orders suspended in order to move and debate the Respect for Human Life Bill. The Bill would have repealed the Rights of the Terminally Ill Act 1995. The motion was negatived. A proposal to insert a sunset clause into the Act on 20 February 1996 also failed.

The Rights of the Terminally Ill Amendment Act 1996 was passed on February 1996. Among other things, the amending Act increased the number of doctors required to examine and certify that a patient meets the statutory criteria under the Act was increased from two to three. The amending Act also clarified the qualifications that the doctors have to possess and amended the interpreter provisions in the legislation.

It was reported that on 27 June 1996 Mr Kevin Andrews MP foreshadowed that he would introduce a Private Member's Bill into Federal Parliament to override the Rights of the Terminally Ill Act 1995.(6)

On 28 June 1996, Regulations were made under the Rights of the Terminally Act 1995. The Regulations came into effect on 1 July 1996. Among other things, they prescribe the qualifications to be held by two of the doctors and any interpreters used under the Act, provide guidelines for a doctor assisting a patient under the Act and provide a checklist for a doctor assisting a patient under the Act.

The Rights of the Terminally Ill Act 1995 commenced operation on 1 July 1996.

In June 1996, the Rights of the Terminally Ill Act 1995 was challenged in the Northern Territory Supreme Court. The plaintiffs were the President of the Northern Territory Branch of the Australian Medical Association, Dr Chris Wake, and an Aboriginal leader, the Reverend Dr Djiniyini Gondarra. On 24 July 1996, in Wake v. Northern Territory, the Full Court of the Supreme Court rejected the challenge by a majority of 2:1. An application for special leave to appeal to the High Court against this decision has been lodged.

In August 1996, amending legislation was introduced into the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly. The Rights of the Terminally Ill Amendment Bill 1996 would have prohibited the performance of physician-assisted suicide or active voluntary euthanasia in a public hospital or health clinic. This Bill was introduced in order to address concerns expressed about the Act by indigenous people. The Bill's second reading was negatived 15:10. The Respect for Human Life Bill 1996 was introduced on 15 May 1996. It would have repealed the Rights of the Terminally Ill Act 1995. The Bill's second reading was negatived 14:11 in August 1996.

On 26 September 1996, the media carried stories that the first person had died using the Rights of the Terminally Ill Act 1995. The man, in his mid-60s, had been suffering from prostate cancer. The Age reported that the man had died on 22 September after '... using lethal drugs administered by a so-called "Death Machine," a computer-operated device which releases the drugs after the patient pushes the required buttons.'(7)

Further Reading

Readers who are interested in further discussion of euthanasia, the law and the Northern Territory legislation should refer to two Parliamentary Research Service Research Papers - Euthanasia - the Australian Law in an International Context. Part 1: Passive Voluntary Euthanasia and Part 2: Active Voluntary Euthanasia.

Withholding or withdrawal of medical treatment

In certain circumstances the common law permits and in others requires life sustaining medical treatment to be withdrawn or withheld from a patient. It permits such treatment to be withdrawn or withheld from an incompetent or competent patient where the treatment is no longer medically indicated for that patient because it is futile or burdensome to the patient - here it is argued that health care professionals do not have a duty to use all the means available to them to prolong life. The common law requires the withdrawal or withholding of life sustaining medical treatment from a competent patient if that patient refuses to consent to that treatment.

In some Australian jurisdictions, legislation has been enacted to establish a statutory regime under which adults may issue valid and binding directions about the withholding or withdrawal of medical treatment. In some jurisdictions, legislative recognition has also been given to medical powers of attorney - which enable adults to appoint a person to make medical decisions for them in the event that they are unable to do so. Australian jurisdictions with refusal of medical treatment statutes are the Northern Territory, the Australian Capital Territory, Victoria and South Australia.

In the Northern Territory, the Natural Death Act 1988 enables a competent adult to make an advance directive refusing the application of extraordinary measures in the event that he or she suffers from a terminal illness. The Natural Death Act 1988 does not include provision for medical powers of attorney.

In the ACT, the Medical Treatment Act 1994 enables a competent adult to make a direction refusing, or for the withdrawal of, medical treatment in relation to a current condition. A competent adult can also execute a power of attorney appointing an agent who can authorise the withholding or withdrawal of medical treatment if he or she (the principal) becomes incompetent.

Refusal of medical treatment statutes generally contain a provision to the effect that a health care professional who withdraws or withholds treatment in accordance with the statutory regime is immune from civil and criminal liability and from professional disciplinary action.(8)

The double effect doctrine

There is English case law indicating that a health care professional whose patient is terminally ill may lawfully administer pain killing drugs that hasten the patient's death, even if the health care professional knows this is likely to be a result of administering the drugs, provided his or her 'primary' intention can be described as an intention to relieve pain rather than an intention to end the patient's life. The philosophical doctrine of double effect is often said to underpin this legal rule. (9)

It is far from clear whether the legal position in England also represents the law in Australia. It has been suggested that in Australia a doctor could be criminally liable for murder for administering pain killing drugs in these circumstances.(10)

Commonwealth Territories and the Commonwealth Constitution

Under section 122 of the Commonwealth Constitution, the Commonwealth has the power to make laws for the government of any territory. This is a plenary power, unlimited by subject matter. In their Annotated Commonwealth Constitution, Lumb & Moens write:

Under this head of power [section 122], the Commonwealth has a general power of legislating for a Territory. It may do so by means of paramount legislation passed by the Commonwealth Parliament, or by setting up a Territorial legislature with its own legislative power, although these will always be subject to the overriding authority of the Commonwealth Parliament.(11) </ ul>

Lumb and Moens also add:

In this respect, recognition must be given to the development of any convention which may affect the Commonwealth's power to legislate for a self-governing Territory.(12) </ ul>

The Commonwealth may acquire territories:

  • as a result of surrender by a State Parliament - this occurred when South Australia surrendered the Northern Territory and when NSW surrendered the ACT (then called the Federal Capital Territory);
  • by the Queen placing the Territory under the Commonwealth's authority and the Commonwealth accepting the placement - this occurred in the case of Norfolk Island(13);
  • by other means - for example, by cession or transfer.

The ACT, the Northern Territory and Norfolk Island are all Commonwealth territories. All three have been granted self-government by the Commonwealth, although self-government legislation in each case contains certain limitations - for example, empowering the Governor-General to disallow legislation(14) or providing that the Territory executive or legislature cannot exercise power in respect of certain subject matters.(15)

On 18 September 1996, the Senate Standing Committee for the Scrutiny of Bills released its Alert Digest No.7 of 1996. The report expressed concerns about the Euthanasia Laws Bill overriding the ability of democratically elected legislative assemblies to enact laws and affecting the residents of territories in a discriminatory fashion.

Main Provisions

Item 1 of Schedule 1 of the Bill amends the Northern Territory (Self-Government) Act 1978. The amendment provides that the Territory's Legislative Assembly cannot make laws that permit euthanasia or mercy killing, or which permit a person to be assisted to terminate their own life [new subsection 50A(1)].

New subsection 50A(2) provides exceptions to this prohibition by allowing the Legislative Assembly to make laws about:

  • the withholding or withdrawal of life-prolonging medical or surgical treatment - so long as those laws do not permit the intentional killing of the patient; or
  • the provision of palliative care to a dying patient - so long as those laws do not permit the intentional killing of the patient.

Item 2 of Schedule 1 provides that the amendment does not retrospectively invalidate or make unlawful anything done in accordance with the Rights of the Terminally Ill Act 1995.

Item 1 of Schedule 2 amends the Australian Capital Territory (Self-Government) Act 1988 in a similar fashion to new section 50A of the Northern Territory (Self-Government) Act 1987.

Item 1 of Schedule 3 amends the Norfolk Island Act 1979 in a similar fashion.

Remarks

Definitions

The term 'euthanasia' comes from the Greek words 'eu' and 'thanatos' and literally means an easy death. However, what is meant by 'euthanasia' is not easy to define.(16) The Bill does not define 'euthanasia.' Instead, it refers to 'the form of intentional killing of another called euthanasia (which includes mercy killing).'

It is arguable whether there is one form of behaviour called 'euthanasia'. This is because views differ concerning which acts and/or omissions are covered by the term 'euthanasia'. For some, the withholding or withdrawal of life sustaining medical treatment is not 'euthanasia' if it is done pursuant to the request of a competent patient,(17) or if it is done because the treatment is considered medically futile or burdensome to a competent or incompetent patient.(18) Similarly, some commentators do not consider that 'euthanasia' includes the administration of pain relieving measures in the foreknowledge that they may or will hasten death. On these views, the defining characteristic of 'euthanasia' is that it involves acting with the specific and primary intention of causing the patient's death. (19)

For others, the term 'euthanasia' covers a much broader range of actions and omissions done in order to hasten death or end life. Such commentators might argue that anything done for the purpose of ending life or hastening death is 'euthanasia.' On this view, the withdrawal or withholding of life sustaining medical treatment - pursuant to a competent patient's request(20) or because the treatment is considered medically futile or burdensome to an incompetent(21) or competent(22) patient - can be described as 'euthanasia'. Similarly, it can be argued that the administration of increasing doses of pain killers to a terminally ill patient is 'euthanasia' because it is done for the purpose of hastening the patient's death as well as relieving his or her pain. In a recent article, Kuhse and Singer ask 'Is it even possible, or desirable, to distinguish between the directly intended and foreseen consequences of the doctor's actions.'(23)

Apart from 'euthanasia', other expressions not defined in the Bill are 'mercy killing', 'intentional killing', 'palliative care', 'dying patient', 'medical or surgical measures' and 'medical treatment'. Nor does the Bill explain what is meant by 'medical or surgical measures meant for prolonging the life of a patient.' The meaning of all these terms will determine the scope and effect of the Bill. As none of these terms has a fixed or self-evident meaning - legally or ethically - the absence of any definition of the terms in the Bill is problematic.

Does the Bill remove a Territory's power to make laws that require health care professionals to respect a competent patient's refusal of life sustaining medical treatment?

A mentioned above, both the Northern Territory and the ACT have refusal of medical treatment statutes.

The Natural Death Act 1988 (NT) enables life sustaining medical treatment to be withdrawn or withheld in accordance with the direction of a competent patient. It makes it clear that a health care professional who acts in accordance with such a direction is immune from any criminal or civil liability. The Medical Treatment Act 1994 (ACT) also enables life sustaining medical treatment to be withdrawn or withheld either in accordance with an advance directive of the patient or under an enduring medical power of attorney.

The Explanatory Memorandum circulated with the Euthanasia Laws Bill 1996 states that the Bill enables territory legislatures to make laws about the 'right to refuse medical treatment'(24) but not so as to permit the 'intentional killing' of the patient.(25)

As the Bill does not define exactly what is meant by 'intentional killing of the patient' it is not clear whether the Bill leaves intact power of a territory to pass legislation along the lines of the Natural Death Act 1988 (NT) and/ or the Medical Treatment Act 1994 (ACT). One commentator notes:

The legal community seems to be engaged in a perpetual debate over the meaning and scope of intention in the criminal law. The centre of the controversy lies with the relationship between intention and foresight, and in particular whether foreseen consequences are 'intended' consequences. The courts have not applied a consistent meaning to intention ...(26) </ ul>

The refusal of treatment statutes themselves do not clarify the matter. The Natural Death Act 1988 (NT) provides that the withdrawal or withholding of life sustaining medical treatment under that legislation will not be regarded legally as a cause of the patient's death. However, it does not address the question of whether a health care professional responsible for such withdrawal or withholding can be said to have 'intended' the patient's death. The Medical Treatment Act 1994 (ACT) does not state whether a health care professional may be said to have caused the patient's death in these circumstances nor whether he or she may be said to have intended the death.

There is no case law in Australia dealing directly with the withdrawal or withholding of life sustaining medical treatment pursuant to the request of a competent patient. Therefore, the question of whether this situation can be said to involve the intentional killing of a patient has not been explored by Australian courts. English and North American courts, however, have held that a refusal of life sustaining medical treatment does not amount to an attempt to commit suicide. They have held that the refusal merely allows the patient's illness to take its natural course. This has enabled English and North American courts to conclude that a health care professional who respects a competent patient's refusal of life sustaining medical treatment cannot be criminally liable for assisting a suicide. It is arguable that Australian courts could take a similar view, and thus conclude that a health care professional who withdraws or withholds life sustaining medical treatment does not have an intention to kill. There is, however, the contrary argument that the withdrawal or withholding of life sustaining medical treatment does involve such an intention at law.

It is, therefore, possible that the Bill would remove or limit the powers of the territories to make laws along the lines of the Natural Death Act 1988 (NT) and/or the Medical Treatment Act 1994 (ACT). On this view, the ACT and the Northern Territory would be prevented from improving their present statutory regimes by amending or replacing their current legislation. It could also be argued that the Euthanasia Laws Bill may invalidate part or all of the refusal of treatment legislation in both jurisdictions.

If the Bill did have an adverse impact on the refusal of treatment legislation in the Northern Territory and the ACT, patients would not thereby lose all their legal rights to refuse life sustaining medical treatment. The common law rules enabling competent adult patients to refuse medical treatment in general, and life sustaining medical treatment in particular, would continue to exist. It is important to note, however, that the refusal of medical treatment statutes were enacted in the Northern Territory and the ACT (and in South Australia and Victoria) partly because of inadequate awareness in the general community and amongst the medical profession of the common law rights of patients in this area. The enactment of these statutes has given patients greater certainty that their wishes about medical treatment will be respected. It has also given health care professionals greater certainty that they will have immunity from legal or professional disciplinary action if they comply with the relevant statutory regime.

Does the Bill remove a Territory's power to clarify whether the double effect protects health care professionals from liability for administering pain relief that hastens death?

As discussed above, it is not clear whether in Australia a health care professional may lawfully administer pain relief that hastens the death of a terminally ill patient. English case law establishes that a doctor will be immune from criminal liability if his or her primary intention in these circumstances can be characterised as an intention to relieve pain, rather than an intention to hasten death.(27) In Australia, however, a health care professional may be exposed to criminal liability for murder for administering life-shortening pain relief to a terminally ill patient in these circumstances - on the basis either that the professional 'intends' the death of the patient(28) or that he or she acts knowing that death is likely to result.

The law on this matter in both the Northern Territory and the ACT therefore requires clarification. As stated earlier, South Australia is the only Australian jurisdiction that has enacted clarifying legislation.(29) It can be argued that the Bill would remove the power of the Territory Parliaments to enact legislation similar to the South Australian statute. This claim rests on the Bill's failure to define 'intentional killing', and on the argument that Australian criminal law might characterise a death hastened by pain relieving measures as involving whatever is encompassed in 'intentional killing.'

The Bill seems to try to avoid this result by creating a palliative care exception - allowing the territories to enact laws relating to 'medical treatment in the provision of palliative care to a dying patient.' The Bill does not define 'medical treatment' or 'palliative care' or 'dying patient', however, so the scope of this exception is unclear. Moreover the Bill attaches a proviso to this exception stating that such medical treatment must not permit the 'intentional killing of the patient'. Thus, if the initial argument succeeds - ie that the Bill's reference to 'intentional killing' may encompass a hastening of death caused by pain relieving measures - the 'palliative care' exception in the Bill does not preserve the Territories power to make laws on this matter.

Does the Bill remove a Territory's power to make passive non-voluntary euthanasia laws?

The withdrawal or withholding of life sustaining medical treatment from an incompetent patient is described by some as passive non-voluntary euthanasia. A patient is not competent if he or she lacks legal capacity. Those without legal capacity include people who have never been competent to consent to or refuse medical treatment, such as young children and adults with severe intellectual disabilities. They also include people who were competent but are no longer so due to accident, illness or old age.

At common law in Australia, it appears that life sustaining medical treatment can be withdrawn from an incompetent patient in certain limited circumstances.(30)

The Bill seems to remove the territories' power to enact laws allowing passive non-voluntary euthanasia to the extent that it can be characterised as involving 'intentional killing.' This would prevent the territories from enacting a statutory regime to clarify, regulate and/or modify the common law position.

Passive involuntary euthanasia

Passive involuntary euthanasia might be described as the withdrawing or withholding of medical treatment from a competent patient, without that patient's consent, in order to end the patient's life or hasten death.

It should be noted that at common law a health care professional is under no obligation to provide any form of medical treatment simply because the patient requests that treatment. A health care professional will not be forced to provide treatment 'which in the bona fide clinical judgment of the practitioner concerned is contraindicated as not being in the best interests of the patient.'(31)

The Bill seems to remove the territories' power to enact laws allowing passive involuntary euthanasia, to the extent that it can be characterised as involving 'intentional killing.' This would prevent the territories from enacting a statutory regime to clarify, regulate and/or modify the common law position.

Abortion

Questions have been raised about whether the Euthanasia Laws Bill could impact on the capacity of a territory to enact laws that decriminalise or legalise abortion. Laws that criminalise abortion provide that it involves behaviour performed with the intention of unlawfully procuring a miscarriage. It is, therefore, extremely unlikely that abortion is encompassed by the expressions 'euthanasia' or 'mercy killing.' At common law a foetus is not considered to have a legal personality and cannot be a victim of homicide regardless of its gestation age unless it is born alive.(32)

Mercy Killing

Mercy killing(33) has been defined by one writer as 'an intentional killing which is prima facie murder but which is carried out for compassionate motives, often by a member of the family or a friend of the victim.'(34)

'Mercy killing' is not defined in the Euthanasia Laws Bill 1996. Its inclusion arguably extends the ambit of the legislation beyond the doctor-patient context to the actions of friends or family of victims who may or may not be suffering from a terminal illness.

A study of mercy killing cases dealt with by the Australian criminal justice system found that many perpetrators were treated leniently - through the exercise of prosecutorial discretion, acquittal, findings of guilt on a lesser charge, lenient sentencing, favourable parole determinations or executive clemency. (35) Reform of the law relating to mercy killing is sometimes raised and has included suggestions for the creation of a separate offence of mercy killing with a lesser penalty than for murder or continuing to treat mercy killing as murder but allowing the courts a sentencing discretion to reduce or set aside penalties.(36)

The Euthanasia Laws Bill prohibits a territory from making laws which 'permit or have the effect of permitting (whether subject to conditions or not) the form of intentional killing of another called euthanasia (which includes mercy killing).'(37) Does the Euthanasia Laws Bill prevent a territory legislature from reforming the law in relation to mercy killing? Could such reform, depending of course on its nature, be regarded as having the effect of permitting mercy killing?

Endnotes

  1. See Northern Territory. Legislative Assembly. Select Committee on Euthanasia, The Right of the Individual or the Common Good? Volume One. Report of the Inquiry by the Select Committee on Euthanasia, Darwin, May 1995.
  2. Ibid, p.x.
  3. Cica, N Euthanasia - the Australian Law in an International Context. Part 2: Active Voluntary Euthanasia, Research Paper No.4 1996-97, Parliamentary Research Service, Department of the Parliamentary Library, Canberra, 1996.
  4. Ibid, p.v.
  5. Otlowski, M Active Voluntary Euthanasia. A Timely Reappraisal, University of Tasmania Law School Occasional Paper 1, 1992.
  6. See, for example, 'Commonwealth may veto Territory's euthanasia laws,' Financial Review, 28 June 1996.
  7. 'First death under NT mercy law,' The Age [Melbourne], 26 September 1996, p.1.
  8. See, for example, section 22 of the Medical Treatment Act 1994 (ACT).
  9. R v. (Bodkin) Adams [1957] Crim LR 365; Airedale NHST v. Bland [1993] AC 789.
  10. Cica, op.cit, Active Voluntary Euthanasia. Otlowski, op.cit, pp.19-20 writes:

    Under existing criminal law principles for murder, liability will be established for acts which cause death if they are performed with an intention to cause death or in the knowledge that death will result. Provided the necessary mens rea and actus reus can be established, the doctor's motive or the fact that the patient consented to the administration of pain relieving drugs would be irrelevant to the issue of liability. ...

    Notwithstanding the clear application of criminal law principles, it is widely assumed that doctors are not acting unlawfully if they administer pain relieving drugs which hasten the death of a patient, provided that the doctor's intention was to alleviate pain and not to bring about the patient's death.

  11. Lumb, RD & Moens, GA The Constitution of the Commonwealth of Australia. Annotated, 5th ed, Butterworths, Sydney, 1995.
  12. Ibid.
  13. Norfolk Island was the first external territory acquired by the Commonwealth. It became a territory of Australia after the Queen placed the Island under the Commonwealth's authority and the Commonwealth enacted the Norfolk Island Act 1913.
  14. See, for example, section 35(2), Australian Capital Territory (Self-Government) Act 1988 (Cwlth).
  15. See, for example, section 23(1) Australian Capital Territory (Self-Government) Act 1988; regulation 4(2) Northern Territory (Self-Government) Regulations, sections 49 & 50 Northern Territory (Self-Government) Act 1978.
  16. Thompson, P 'The law and active euthanasia: whose life is it anyway?' Journal of Law and Medicine, 2(3), February 1995, pp. 233-46.
  17. Recall that the common law throughout Australia requires health care professionals to respect a competent refusal of life sustaining medical treatment: see above.
  18. Recall that the common law permits this.
  19. See, for example, Tobin, B 'Foreward,' in B Tobin (ed) Euthanasia. Proceedings of s Seminar Held at the Metcalfe Auditorium, State Library of New South Wales, 7 November 1994; Pollard, B 'Euthanasia,' Medical Journal of Australia, 1987, vol.146, p.179.
  20. Sometimes called passive voluntary euthanasia.
  21. Sometimes called passive non-voluntary euthanasia.
  22. If this occurs without patient's consent, it is sometimes called passive involuntary euthanasia.
  23. Kuhse, H & Singer, P 'Active voluntary euthanasia, morality and the law,' Journal of Law and Medicine, 3(2) November 1995, pp.129-35 at p.133.
  24. Explanatory Memorandum, Euthanasia Laws Bill 1996, p.3.
  25. Ibid.
  26. Bronitt, S 'Defending Giorgianni - Part One: The fault required for complicity,' Criminal Law Journal, 17(4) August 1993, pp.242-63 at p.248.
  27. R v. (Bodkin) Adams [1957] Crim LR 365; R v. Cox (1992) BMLR 38.
  28. Bronitt, op.cit; & Otlowski, op.cit.
  29. Consent to Medical Treatment and Palliative Care Act 1995 (SA).
  30. See Airedale NHS Trust v. Bland [1993] AC 789; Re B (A Minor) (Wardship: Medical Treatment) [1981] WLR 1421; Re C (A Minor) (Wardship: Medical Treatment) [1989] 2 All ER 782; Re J (A Minor) (Wardship: Medical Treatment) [1990] All ER 930; Re Superintendent of Family and Child Services and Dawson (1983) 145 DLR (3d) 610.
  31. Re J (A Minor) (Wardship: Medical Treatment) [1992] 3 All ER 614; See also R v. Cambridge District HA, ex parte B [1995] 2 All ER 129.
  32. Cica, N 'The inadequacies of Australian abortion law,' Australian Journal of Family Law, 5(1), March 1991, pp.37-68. For recent Australian decisions confirming that a foetus cannot be a victim of homicide unless it is born alive, see Attorney-General's Reference No.3 of 1994; Crown v. Martin, Western Australia, unreported, 4 April 1996.
  33. Under Australian criminal law, the motive of a person who has killed another is irrelevant, as are the circumstances of the victim or the victim's desire to die. Such a person may be guilty of murder or assisting a suicide.
  34. Otlowski, M 'Mercy killing cases in the Australian criminal justice system,' Criminal Law Journal, 17(1), February 1993, pp.10-39 at p.10.
  35. Ibid. Otlowski examined 19 mercy killing cases dealt with by the Australian criminal justice system over a period of 30 years.
  36. Ibid.
  37. For example, new section 50A(1), Euthanasia Laws Bill 1996.

Contact Officer and Copyright Details

Jennifer Norberry Ph. 06 277 2476
Natasha Cica
15 October 1996
Bills Digest Service
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This Digest does not have any official legal status. Other sources should be consulted to determine whether the Bill has been enacted and, if so, whether the subsequent Act reflects further amendments.

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ISSN 1323-9031
© Commonwealth of Australia 1996

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Last updated: 18 October 1996

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