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ACT euthanasia for teens as young as 14

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Drafted assisted suicide laws set to be introduced into the ACT Government pushed for teenagers as young as 14 to be allowed to access the system. Photo: Supplied
Drafted assisted suicide laws set to be introduced into the ACT Government pushed for teenagers as young as 14 to be allowed to access the system. Photo: Supplied

The ACT Government is poised to introduce draft assisted suicide laws this year with a push for teenagers as young as 14 to be allowed to access the system.

Minister for Human Rights Tara Cheyne released a report on 29 June summarising feedback on how the model should be delivered in the ACT, saying that the government intends to introduce legislation in the Legislative Assembly towards the end of this year.

It follows the Senate vote last December to end the 1997 ban on Australia’s territories debating euthanasia and assisted suicide.

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Ms Cheyne told The Australian that she was considering lowing the minimum age to 14 after hearing “very clearly from the community” that 18 is considered an arbitrary limit.

The report was based on public consultation taken from February to April 2023 including a survey of almost 3000 Canberrans, formal submissions, meetings and roundtables.

“Many contributors noted that limiting voluntary assisted dying to those over the age of 18 was an arbitrary limit, given young people under the age of 18 also experience intolerable end-of-life suffering through terminal illnesses, and should have the same end-of-life choices as adults,” read the report.

“Health professionals noted that, if pursued, this would need to be carefully implemented.”

The ACT may also dismiss a requirement of an expected time of death between 6 to 12 months that other states have implemented.

“We heard that such timeframes can unnecessarily limit access to voluntary assisted dying for people who would like to have it as an option, especially because it can become increasingly difficult for people to navigate the voluntary assisted dying process as they become more unwell near the end of their lives,” the consultation report read.

The report also recommended that health practitioners should be able to conscientiously object, as long as they did not hinder patients’ access to voluntary assisted dying and that faith-based aged care and health providers should be made to facilitate patients’ access to the scheme.

In April Canberra-Goulburn Archbishop Christopher Prowse re-stated the church’s opposition to euthanasia and called for greater financial resources to be directed at deepening and expanding palliative care’s medical and social availability, especially in remote areas of the ACT.

“It is not as if we are remote observers in the care of the terminally ill. Indeed, we represent the largest non-government employer in the ACT,” he wrote.

“Catholics make an extensive contribution in the area of health and social services, especially towards the most fragile.

“At the foundational level, Catholics join mainstream philosophy and human rights traditions and believe that human life is to be protected from conception until natural death.”

The Australian Christian Lobby called on the ACT government to abandon what it called “pro-death legislation.”

“Minister Cheyne’s proposition that minors should be able to access assisted suicide sends a dangerous message to vulnerable teenagers and undermines the prevention of youth suicide,” political director Rob Norman said.

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