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Nov 16, 6:47 PM EST

Australian parliament in final stage of euthanasia debate


CANBERRA, Australia (AP) -- An Australian state parliament was in the final stage Friday of a marathon debate on allowing voluntary euthanasia, 20 years after the country repealed the world's first mercy killing law.

Debate in the Victorian Legislative Council began Thursday morning and continued through the night.

The bill that would make voluntary euthanasia legal in Australia's second most populous state was passed last month by the parliament's lower chamber, the Legislative Assembly, 47 votes to 37.

The parliament of Australian's most populous state, New South Wales, on Thursday rejected a doctor-assisted suicide bill by a single vote, 20 to 19.

Trevor Khan, the opposition lawmaker who introduced the bill to the New South Wales upper chamber, the Legislative Council, said he would "never give up the fight" to legalize mercy killings.

Australia's sparsely populated Northern Territory in 1995 became the first jurisdiction in the world to legalize doctor-assisted suicide for terminally ill patients. But the Australian Parliament overturned that law in 1997 after four people had been helped to die.

The Australian Parliament does not have the same power to repeal the laws of states such as Victoria.

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews, who became a euthanasia advocate after his father died of cancer last year, has described the draft state laws as the most conservative in the world.

Laws to legalize mercy killings have been narrowly rejected by three of Australia's six states.

A euthanasia bill was defeated by a single vote in the South Australian House of Assembly a year ago and similar legislation was rejected by two votes in Tasmania's House of Assembly in 2013.

Under the Victorian draft law passed by the lower chamber, only people registered on the electoral roll as living in that state would be eligible to access medical help to die. Candidates must be assessed by two doctors as having a terminal illness with less than a year to live and be in intolerable pain.

Government has agreed to amendments in the upper chamber that would require candidates to live in Victoria for at least a year before they were eligible and have only six months to live.

A doctor would be permitted to administer a lethal injection only in cases where patients were physically incapable of doing so themselves.

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