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Austrian assisted suicide bill becomes law

On Thursday December 16, the in October created assisted suicide bill has been adopted by the national council of Austria. The so called ‘Sterbeverfügungsgesetz’ will enter into force on the first of January 2022.

The law

The new law will allow assisted suicide under strict requirements. The prerequisite is that those willing to die are informed by a doctor and the disease is detected. In addition, the decision-making ability must be confirmed by a second physician. After a period of twelve weeks (for people who have only a very short time to live: two weeks), a so-called death order can be drawn up at the notary or patient advocate, with which one gains access to a lethal preparation. The deadly preparation will be available in the pharmacy. The submission must be noted in a register.

Law as the result of a lawsuit

The bill was necessary since the Constitutional Court (VfGH) made a groundbreaking decision almost a year ago. The highest judges overturned a crucial part of Section 78 of the Criminal Code: the inducement to suicide remains prohibited, but aiding and abetting is not(see knowledge below). It contradicts the right to self-determination to “prohibit any kind of help for suicide without exception”.

In order to prevent abuse, however, the Constitutional Court gave politicians a mandate on the way: The legislator had to “provide for measures” so that those affected by pressure can decide uninfluenced. The coalition had a good year to do so, because repeal will only take effect at the beginning of the new year. If no law is passed by then, there would be no rules for either the conditions or the implementation of the aid. Then a kind of wild growth would threaten.

More possibilities

Parallel to this new possibility on assisted dying, hospice and palliative care is being expanded nationwide. From 2022, third-party financing by the federal, state and local governments is planned. The federal government will provide 21 million euros for this this year, followed by 36 and 51 million euros in the following years. From 2025, the annual special purpose grant is to be upgraded.

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