At 2.00 am on the morning of May 24, 1995 the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly Australia passed the Rights of the Terminally Ill Act by the narrow margin of 15 votes to 10. The act permits a terminally ill patient of sound mind and over the age of 18 years, and who is either in pain or suffering, or distress, to request a medical practitioner to assist the patient to terminate his or her life. Thus, Australia can lay claim to being the first country in the world to legalise voluntary active euthanasia. The Northern Territory's act has prompted Australia-wide community reaction, particularly in South Australia, Tasmania and the Australian Capital Territory where proposals to legalise euthanasia have already been defeated on the floor of parliament. In New South Wales (NSW) the AIDS Council of NSW has prepared draft euthanasia legislation to be introduced into the Upper House as a Private Member's Bill some time in 1996. In this paper, we focus on a brief description of events as they occurred and on the arguments for and against the legalisation of euthanasia which have appeared in the media.
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