Austrians with a terminal illness or permanent, debilitating condition now may seek help in ending their life. Parliament approved legalizing assisted suicide last week after a Constitutional Court ruling that said the existing ban was a violation of the right to self-determination, Deutsche Welle reports. The Assisted Suicide Act took effect Saturday. Assisted suicide is legal next door, in Switzerland, and it has been decriminalized in European nations including Belgium, Spain, and the Netherlands, per the BBC. The Austrian law requires:
- Documentation: Applicants must show a diagnosis and confirmation that they're capable of making their own their own decisions. Those with mental health problems are excluded, as are minors.
- Doctors' approval: Two doctors have to assess each case, with one of them being a specialist in palliative medicine.
- A waiting period: Once two doctors approve, nothing can happen for 12 weeks, theoretically so patients can consider their decision and draw up a will. The wait, which is two weeks for those with a terminal illness, also is designed to ensure the health issue isn't temporary.
- Notifications: After the waiting period, the patient is to inform a lawyer or notary, then receive access to lethal drugs from a pharmacy.
The justice minister said the government also will increase its offerings of alternatives to suicide. Actively helping someone else commit suicide remains illegal, per the Daily Beast. Some opponents of the legislation had argued that it enacted too many requirements for those seeking help in dying, while others said a psychiatric evaluation is insufficient for determining a person's ability to make the decision. (Read more assisted suicide stories.)