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VAD ruling prompts call for amendments

Queensland Law Society has backed the State Government’s call for urgent amendments to the Criminal Code Act 1995 (Cth) in relation to Voluntary Assisted Dying (VAD) provisions.

The push follows a Federal Court’s ruling yesterday in relation to a Victorian doctor who brought a case for clarification on whether “suicide” in the Code includes VAD, with the court finding that it does.

Sections 474.29A and 474.29B make it an offence to use a carriage service for suicide-related material and it is an offence to possess, control, produce, supply or obtain suicide-related material for use through a carriage service.

QLS provided input to a Law Council of Australia submission last year, saying that it strongly supported amendments to the Code to “place beyond doubt that the suicide material offences do not extend to conduct in compliance with VAD laws enacted by state legislatures”.

“We suggest the insertion of a definition declaring that ‘suicide’ does not include voluntary assisted dying carried out lawfully pursuant to a law of a State or Territory,” the Society said.

“We would prefer legislative amendment to the Cth Criminal Code to ensure clarification of the position for medical practitioners.

“Where legislative amendment is not supported, we would advocate for the issuance of prosecutorial guidelines indicating that medical practitioners and other persons acting in accordance with State or Territory VAD legislation will not be prosecuted under the suicide material offences.”

Queensland Attorney-General Yvette D’Ath said the Federal Court decision reinforced the state’s position that legislative change was essential.

“These laws particularly impact Queensland due to its decentralised nature,” Ms D’Ath said.

“Medical professionals should not face prosecution for fulfilling their duties, nor should people be denied access to medical support based on where they live.”

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