The Rights of the Terminally Ill Act 1995 in the Northern Territory of Australia was a law legalising euthanasia, passed by the Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory of Australia in 1995, but effectively nullified in 1997 by the Federal Parliament.
Dr Philip Nitschke, the first doctor in the world to administer legal, voluntary euthanasia, founded Exit International in response to the overturning of the Act.
Provisions of Act
Passed by the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly on 25 May 1995, the Act allowed terminally ill patients to commit medically assisted suicide, either by the direct involvement of a physician or by procurement of drugs. It required a somewhat lengthy application process, designed to ensure that the patients were both mentally competent to make the decision and in fact terminally ill. Under the Act:
- A patient had to be over 18 and be mentally and physically competent to request his or her own death.
- The request had to be supported by three doctors, including a specialist who confirmed that the patient was terminally ill and a psychiatrist who certified that the patient was not suffering from treatable depression.
- Once the paperwork was complete, a nine-day cooling-off period was required before the death could proceed.
The passage of the bill — one of the first of its kind in the world — provoked a furore in Australia, and indeed in much of the rest of the world. The Act received both widespread support from “death with dignity” and right to die groups who saw it as model to be followed elsewhere, and widespread condemnation from euthanasia opponents, such as right to life groups, who sought to overturn it.
While the law was in effect, four people committed suicide through its provisions.
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