Austria: Parliament gives green light to law on euthanasia

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The Austrian parliament today passed a law legalizing assisted euthanasia for people suffering from a serious or incurable disease, in response to a court ruling that the ban violated citizens’ fundamental rights.

A year ago, the Constitutional Court asked the government to revise a law that provided for up to five years in prison for anyone who helped someone die. According to the text ratified by all parties except the far-right FPÖ, adults who are in the last stage of an incurable disease or suffering from a disease that causes them permanent and irreversible disability are allowed to receive help to end their lives.

Two doctors will have to look at each case individually and judge if the patient is able to make decisions. There will also be a period of 12 weeks until the decision is implemented, to ensure that the request was not made in the midst of a temporary crisis. If the patient is in the last stage of the disease, the time frame will be reduced to two weeks.

The law respects human dignity, said Justice Minister Alma Chadis, but at the same time guarantees that “no one will choose the path of death if there are other possibilities.” A budget of € 108 million has been approved for this purpose, with the aim of developing palliative care.

In Europe, euthanasia is legal in Spain, Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg.

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