Adults who are terminally ill or with a permanent, debilitating illness will be able to access help to end their life
Austria’s parliament on Thursday approved the legalization of assisted suicide from January in response to a court ruling that the current ban violates fundamental rights.
A year ago, the Constitutional Court ordered the government to lift the current ban on physician-assisted dying, which carries a sentence of up to five years in prison.
Under legislation approved by all parties except the far right, adults who are terminally ill or with a permanent and debilitating illness will be able to access help to end their life.
Two doctors will have to assess each case, one of whom will have to be qualified in palliative medicine.
One of their tasks will be to determine whether the patient is able to make the decision independently.
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In addition, at least 12 weeks must pass before access is granted to ensure that euthanasia is not requested due to a temporary crisis.
This period will be reduced to two weeks for patients in the âterminal phaseâ of an illness.
The proposals were submitted for expert review before reaching parliament, where MPs had to approve them.
The government has also allocated funds to further develop palliative care to ensure that “no one chooses the path of death when there are other possibilities”, said Justice Minister Alma Zadic, reported the APA news agency.
If no new regulations were in place by the end of the year, the current ban on physician-assisted dying would simply have lapsed, leaving the practice unregulated.
Critics had called the 12-week cooling-off period too short, among other concerns voiced by the Catholic Church, among others, which opposes the legalization of assisted suicide.
Elsewhere in Europe, assisted suicide has been decriminalized in Belgium, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Spain.