A minimalist legislative solution to the problem of euthanasia

Paul A Komesaroff and Stephen Charles
Med J Aust 2015; 202 (9): . || doi: 10.5694/mja14.01743
Published online: 18 May 2015


  • Intense debate has continued for many years about whether voluntary euthanasia or assisted suicide should be permitted by law.
  • The community is bitterly divided and there has been vigorous opposition from medical practitioners and the Australian Medical Association.
  • Despite differences of religious and philosophical convictions and ethical values, there is widespread community agreement that people with terminal illnesses are entitled to adequate treatment, and should also be allowed to make basic choices about when and how they die.
  • A problem with the current law is that doctors who follow current best practice cannot be confident that they will be protected from criminal prosecution.
  • We propose simple changes to Commonwealth and state legislation that recognise community concerns and protect doctors acting in accordance with best current practice.
  • This minimalist solution should be widely acceptable to the community, including both the medical profession and those who object to euthanasia for religious reasons.
  • Important areas of disagreement will persist that can be addressed in future debates.

  • 1 Monash University, Melbourne, VIC, Australia.
  • 2 Centre for Ethics in Medicine and Society, Melbourne, VIC.
  • 3 Global Reconciliation, Melbourne, VIC, Australia.
  • 4 Victorian Court of Appeal, Melbourne, VIC, Australia.


Competing interests:

No relevant disclosures.


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