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Australian state becomes first to legalise assisted dying for terminally ill patients

Victoria, Australia’s second most populous state, has passed legislation legalising assisted dying for terminal patients who have less than six months to live. From 2019 onwards patients who have been resident in the state for over 12 months will be able to request a doctor to administer a lethal drug. Humanists UK hopes that the success of this legislation in Victoria will strengthen the case for the legalisation of assisted dying in the UK for both terminal patients and those with conditions that cause them incurable suffering.

Victoria is the first state in Australia to pass legislation, although Australia’s Northern Territory introduced the world’s first law on assisted dying in 1995, which was subsequently overturned by federal authorities. The law in Victoria was approved after more than 100 hours of debate and contains 68 safeguards against coercion, including the patient making three separate requests to specially trained doctors and all requests will be reviewed by a specialist board. The law allows assisted dying for those with 12 months or fewer to live for patients with certain conditions, like motor neurone disease.

Humanists UK Director of Public Affairs and Policy Richy Thompson commented, ‘We welcome the compassionate decision taken by Victoria’s legislators to introduce assisted dying for those who are terminally ill. This marks a significant step in the right direction and strengthens the case for a similar change in the UK law, which we want to see not only for the terminally ill but also for those suffering from incurable conditions.

‘Humanists UK campaigns to change the law in the UK to permit assisted dying to reduce the pointless suffering of those who are reaching the end of their lives and wish die without pain and distress and for people whose physical condition causes them suffering that they can no longer endure. We recently intervened in the High Court case of our member Noel Conway, who is terminally ill, and we are seeking permission to do the same in the upcoming case of one of our member Omid T who is seeking to also allow assisted death for those with incurable conditions.’


For further comment or information contact Richy Thompson, Director of Public Affairs and Policy at or 020 7324 3072.

Read more about Humanists UK’s campaign work on assisted dying:

At Humanists UK, we advance free thinking and promote humanism to create a tolerant society where rational thinking and kindness prevail. Our work brings non-religious people together to develop their own views, helping people be happier and more fulfilled in the one life we have. Through our ceremonies, education services, and community and campaigning work, we strive to create a fair and equal society for all.

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