Dying with Dignity

Most Australians believe terminally ill people should have the right to end their lives on their own terms. As people we love face ongoing suffering and pain in the grip of terminal illness, we owe it to them to provide the choice of a dignified, pain free death.

Death is an issue that all of us must face. Whether it is our own death or that of a relative, it is a difficult and stressful time. It may also be the first time that many of us encounter the complex intersection of law and medicine and realise that it severely curtails the control we and our doctors may exercise over the circumstances of our passing.

Attempts to fix this have been halting at best. The issues that confront us at the end of our lives are sensitive and highly emotive. Attempts at reform can elicit passionate responses from voters on all sides of the issue. For many political leaders, it would seem that this is considered dangerous and uncertain territory. Although the Northern Territory had a short period of legal euthanasia following the passage of the Rights of the Terminally Ill Act 1995 (until it was overturned by the Federal parliament with the so-called “Andrews Bill”, after its sponsor Kevin Andrews), there has been no progress on the issue for two decades. Despite several attempts including bills in three state parliaments last year no state Parliament has successfully legislated for physician assisted suicide. 


Above: Dying with Dignity morning tea, Parliament House, 24 June 2014. Neil Francis, Peter Short, Dr Richard Di Natale, Cath Ringwood, Max Bromson (Front)

According to Section 51 (xxiiiA) of the Australian Constitution the federal Parliament has the power to legislate regarding medical services. This proposed bill uses this power to define a “dying with dignity medical service” and authorise medical practitioners to prescribe, prepare and/or administer a substance that would assist a terminally ill person to end their life in a humane manner. It provides that the Commonwealth can pay for this service as it would for other medical services. It also indemnifies doctors from prosecution by the states.

Latest on Dying with Dignity


Cross-party push for Territory rights on dying with dignity

29 Feb 2016

Australian Greens leader Dr Richard Di Natale has today reached across party lines to give notice of a co-sponsored bill that would overturn a 20 year old private member's bill by Kevin Andrews that banned the Northern Territory and ACT from legislating dying with dignity laws.


Tim Wilson asked about Dying with Dignity

23 Feb 2015

Freedom Commissioner, Tim Wilson, was asked at the National Press Club whether he supports Dying with Dignity reform.


Richard's speech on dying with dignity, medicinal cannabis & political courage

25 Jun 2014

Greens Senator and former doctor gave a speech to the Australian Senate about having the courage in politics to stick your neck out on issues that are controversial or taboo. Specifically the Senator spoke about medicinal cannabis and dying with dignity, two issues that he has personally tried to progress recently.


Parliament to consider national ‘dying with dignity’ laws

24 Jun 2014

Australian Greens spokesperson health and former GP, Dr Richard Di Natale, today tabled an exposure draft for national ‘dying with dignity’ legislation in the Senate. The Senate then passed a motion to have that bill considered by a Senate Inquiry.


Syme case shows need for euthanasia reform

30 Apr 2014

"Revelations that Melbourne urologist and dying with dignity campaigner Rodney Syme assisted in the suicide of terminally ill man Steve Guest are timely and important," said Greens Health Spokesperson Dr Richard Di Natale today.

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