This information is sourced from the Northern Territory Government’s dedicated VAD web page, cmc.nt.gov.au/project-management-office/voluntary-assisted-dying
The provision of compassionate, high quality and accessible palliative care for persons at their end of life is a fundamental right for everyone living in the Northern Territory. The Northern Territory community is entitled to make choices to manage their end of life care, as are all other Australians.
The Northern Territory was the first jurisdiction in Australia to introduce voluntary assisted dying (VAD) with the Rights of the Terminally Ill Act 1995 (NT) (the ROTI Act). The ROTI Act involved a lengthy application process to determine mental competence and a terminal illness. It required assessment by three independent medical practitioners including a specialist to confirm the terminal nature of the illness and a psychiatrist to confirm the patient was not clinically depressed. It was followed by a nine day ‘cooling off’ period. Four people with terminal conditions accessed the legislation and were supported through VAD. These people were also able to access palliative care services from the Department of Health.
The effect of the law was overridden in 1997 by the passage of the Euthanasia Laws Act 1997 (Cth). The Commonwealth legislation amended the Northern Territory (Self-Government) Act 1978 (Cth) by removing the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly’s power to make any law permitting euthanasia. The Commonwealth legislation also removed this power from the Legislative Assemblies of the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) and Norfolk Island.
The ROTI Act remains in force but with no legal effect. On 1 December 2022, the Senate passed the Restoring Territory Rights Act 2022 (Cth) which repealed the 1997 amendments meaning the Northern Territory can now enact modern legislation to allow VAD.
All other Australian state jurisdictions have enacted or are developing modern VAD legislation customised to their community, with Victoria’s law operating since 2019. The ACT is currently progressing with their legislation, having completed a public consultation process ahead of reporting back to the ACT Legislative Assembly for the introduction of a Bill in
late 2023. VAD is now a standard treatment option throughout Australia and in many other countries. The laws around Australia are similar, with criteria for eligibility, including being over the age of 18 years, being an Australian citizen or permanent resident, having competent decision-making capacity, and having a life-limiting illness. Criteria vary between jurisdictions on the definitions of eligible diseases or medical conditions, and the process for assessment and administration.