SHARE
COPY LINK

POLITICS

Austria to make assisted suicide legal from next year

Austria's government on Saturday set out its plans for legalising assisted suicide from 2022 in response to a court ruling, which found that the current ban violated fundamental rights.

The federal chancellery in Vienna, Austria
The picture shows the federal chancellery in Vienna as Austrian MPs are expected to approve the proposals on assisted suicide before the end of the year. picture alliance / Kerstin Joensson/AP/dpa | Kerstin Joensson

In December 2020, the constitutional court ordered the government to lift the existing ban on assisted dying, which is punishable by up to five years in prison.

According to a summary of the proposed legislation from the justice ministry, adults who are terminally ill or suffer from a permanent and debilitating condition will be able to access help with ending their own lives.

Two doctors will have to assess each case, one of whom will have to be qualified in palliative medicine.

Among their duties will be to determine whether the patient is capable of coming to the decision independently.

In addition, at least 12 weeks will have to pass before access is granted to make sure euthanasia is not being sought due to a temporary crisis.

This period will be shortened to two weeks for patients in the “terminal phase” of an illness.

The proposals will now be subject to scrutiny by experts before coming to parliament, where MPs are expected to approve them before the end of the year.

If no new regulation were to be in place by the end of 2021, the existing ban on assisted dying would simply lapse, leaving the practice unregulated.

The Bishop of Innsbruck Hermann Glettler said that the proposals were a “sensitive and responsible” way of trying to conform with the constitutional court’s ruling and welcomed the fact that they also include plans to boost funding for palliative care.

However, he said further safeguards should be added to the process patients will have to go through.

Elsewhere in Europe, euthanasia is legal in the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg and – since June 2021 – in Spain. However, traditionally Catholic states such as Ireland and Poland are holding out against liberalisation.

Switzerland allows assisted suicide, while Norway and Sweden permit passive euthanasia under a strict set of circumstances.

READ ALSO: Italian euthanasia petition big enough to force referendum

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.

POLITICS

Austria’s Nehammer formally elected party leader in unanimous vote

The Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer was formally elected leader of the conservative Austrian People’s Party (ÖVP) on Saturday.

Austria's Nehammer formally elected party leader in unanimous vote

The ÖVP has governed at the federal level in an alliance with the Greens since early 2020 and, at a special federal party conference on Saturday, 100 percent of the delegates voted for the Austrian Chancellor (who has been in office for just over five months now) to be their leader.

READ ALSO: PROFILE: Who is Karl Nehammer, Austria’s new chancellor?

Nehammer’s predecessor Sebastian Kurz had resigned as Chancellor and ÖVP chairman in October 2021 following investigations into suspected corruption. Since then, Nehammer had held the party chairmanship on an interim basis. 

Sebastian Kurz has since completely retired from politics and now works for American investor and billionaire Peter Thiel, who has close ties to former US President Donald Trump.

Prior to the vote, Nehammer gave a speech promoting his election as party chairman: “We are the first servants of this country, and with your help, I will also become the federal party chairman of the People’s Party,” he said.

The heads of the ÖVP traditionally tend to get high results in their first election as chairman. Kurz was elected party leader in 2017 with 98.7 percent of the vote. However, there has never been a 100 percent result in a first-time election until now.

SHOW COMMENTS