VIENNA, Austria: A law allowing assisted suicide came into force in Austria on January 1.
Under the new law, which was approved by the Austrian parliament in December following a constitutional court ruling, terminally ill adults or those who have permanent and debilitating conditions can now make provisions for an assisted death.
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However, the procedure will be tightly regulated, with each case evaluated by two doctors, one of whom would have to be a palliative medicine expert.
The Austrian government also allocated funds to develop palliative care to ensure other options are available, officials said.
Assisted suicide, defined as giving a person the means to end their own life, is legal in neighboring Switzerland and has been decriminalized in several European countries, including Spain, Belgium, and the Netherlands.
Active assistance to those seeking suicide will remain outlawed in Austria, and the new rules explicitly exclude minors or those with mental health conditions from committing suicide.
Further, adults who want to end their lives must produce a diagnosis and prove they are competent to make their own decisions.
After gaining approval from two doctors, patients must wait for 12 weeks to reflect on their decision, or two weeks if they have a terminal illness.
After this waiting period, they can then decide to obtain lethal drugs at a pharmacy, after giving notice to a lawyer or notary.
To prevent abuses, the names of pharmacies that sell these drugs will only be disclosed to lawyers and notaries and will not be advertised publicly.
Previously, anyone who influenced or helped a person commit suicide faced up to five years in prison under Austrian law, but an absolute ban was lifted by a federal court last year, which ruled that Austrian law “violated the right of self-determination.”
However, the same punishment will remain in place for those who assist another person without following the laws.