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Legal aspects of active voluntary euthanasia in Australia

Otlowski, Margaret 1993 , 'Legal aspects of active voluntary euthanasia in Australia', PhD thesis, University of Tasmania.

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This thesis examines the present criminal law position with respect to medically administered active
voluntary euthanasia in Australia. Under existing criminal law principles, whilst there is some scope
for passive euthanasia, active volunta.rY euthanasia is treated as murder and no account is taken of the
special circumstances existing in such cases. Notwithstanding this prohibition, there is evidence that
Australian doctors are involved in the practice of active voluntary euthanasia. However, police and
prosectors appear reluctant to intervene in this area of medical practice, and judging from the
experience in other jurisdictions, there is every likelihood that if a doctor were prosecuted in Australia
for having administered active voluntary euthanasia, the doctor would escape the full rigours of the
criminal law. Against this background, this thesis seeks to highlight the problems which exist as a
result of the marked discrepancies between law and practice in this area. Attention is also drawn to the
law's differential treatment of active and passive euthanasia and the difficulties and anomalies which
arise from the legal characterisation of a number of other medical practices which bear some similarity
to active voluntary euthanasia such as the turning off of artificial life-support and the administration
of pain-relieving drugs which are known to be likely to hasten the patient's death.
The thesis argues that active voluntary euthanasia should not be subject to a blanket criminal law
prohibition. This argument is based on a number of factors including the principle of self-determination,
current legal and medical practice, changing community attitudes, and jurisprudential
arguments regarding the proper role of the criminal law. The conclusion of this thesis is that the law
with regard to active voluntary euthanasia in Australia should be reformed by the introduction of
legislation creating· a very limited exception to the homicide laws that would confer on doctors an
immunity from liability, provided active voluntary euthanasia is performed in accordance with strict
criteria and safeguards. It is argued that the practice of active voluntary euthanasia by doctors in the
Netherlands provides a useful guide to law reform in Australia.

Item Type: Thesis - PhD
Authors/Creators:Otlowski, Margaret
Keywords: Euthanasia
Copyright Holders: The Author
Copyright Information:

Copyright 1993 the Author - The University is continuing to endeavour to trace the copyright
owner(s) and in the meantime this item has been reproduced here in good faith. We
would be pleased to hear from the copyright owner(s).

Additional Information:

Thesis (Ph.D.)--University of Tasmania, 1993. Includes bibliographical references (leaves 434-461)

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