Austria allows assisted suicide


Central Europe


Photo RD, Henk Visscher

Permanently seriously or terminally ill adults can receive assistance to commit suicide in the future. The National Council in Austria approved a new law for this on Thursday evening.

The option of assisted suicide is only available to people who are permanently seriously ill, as well as terminally ill. Active euthanasia remains prohibited. The law will come into force from January 1st, 2022.

The new regulation became necessary after the Constitutional Court lifted the ban on assisted suicide. From the judges' point of view, this violates the individual's right to self-determination.

According to the new "Death Disposal Act", several requirements must be met before suicide: a minimum age of 18 years, a medical diagnosis, information meetings with two doctors and a period of several weeks to think about it. Only then are sick people allowed to draw up their orders with a notary or patient advocate. After that, they can get a lethal drug in a pharmacy, writes the German weekly news magazine Der Spiegel.

The parties almost unanimously approved the new law; only the right-wing FPÖ voted against.


There are, however, some requirements before receiving a deadly medicine. The prerequisite is that a doctor has informed the dying person and that the disease is diagnosed. In addition, the decision-making ability must be confirmed by a second doctor. After a period of twelve weeks (for people who only have a very short time to live: two weeks), a so-called death decree can be drawn up with the notary or patient advocate, giving access to a lethal preparation. The deadly drug will be available in pharmacies, and the submission must be noted in a register.

“The law that has now been passed respects human dignity”, said Justice Minister Alma Zadic from the Austrian Greens to the APA news agency. This writes German news website Tagesschau. According to Zadic, the new law should also ensure that "no one chooses the path of dying when there are other options". That is why hospice and palliative care should be expanded nationwide. The government plans to invest 108 million euros in this.

Last week, the Austrian Bishops' Conference warned against the law. They fear this new law will make assisted suicide a socially accepted normality. The bishops also find it unacceptable that the suicidal person’s decision-making capacity does not have to be assessed by a psychiatrist or psychologist in every case.



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