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Australia: Church questions proposed euthanasia legislation

The Archbishop of Sydney voices strong criticism against a proposed legislation bringing down the age limit for voluntary assisted dying to 14 in the Australian Capital Territory.

By Vatican News staff reporter

Archbishop Anthony Fisher of Sydne has warned that a new legal framework considered by the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) allowing for children as young as 14 to receive voluntary assisted dying (VAD) could see euthanasia become available to “anyone that wants it”.

Voluntary assisted dying in Australia

Voluntary assisted dying was introduced in the Australian state on January 31 2023, following South Australia, Victoria, Queensland, Tasmania and more recently  New South Wales (28 November 2022) after the abrogation of the Australian Euthanasia Laws Act of 1997 which outlawed assisted dying legislation to be passed through territory parliaments. 

All states agree that the person must be at least 18 years old and suffering from a disease, illness or condition that is causing them suffering and have the capability to make decisions independently.

The proposed legislation proposed by the ACT government will bring down the age limit to 14+ and will also dismiss a requirement of an expected time of death between 6 to 12 months that other states have implemented.

ACT Human Rights Minister Tara Cheyne, who is heading the proposed framework, told Australian media that children should have the same choices as adults in how they end their life as ‘young people under the age of 18 can also experience intolerable end-of-life suffering through terminal illnesses’.

Ms Cheyne also rejected as arbitrary the requirement in other Australian jurisdictions for euthanasia to be accessed only by people with a life expectancy of between six and 12 months and left the door open for dementia patients to access the scheme.

Archbishop Fisher: the bar is getting lower  and lower

Archbishop Fisher has voiced strong criticism against the proposal.

“The fact is, every jurisdiction in the world that has gone down the euthanasia path has then gradually stripped away its protections,” he said.  “So, if we start as the ACT’s proposing to start, with the bar already very low, well they’re just going to end up in the gutter with no protections at all.”

Sydney’s Archbishop also questioned why 14-year-olds were considered too young to drive and vote but mature enough to “make a life-and-death decision”.

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