Australia

Assisted dying: Australian cancer patient first to use new law

Kerry Robertson Image copyright GO GENTLE AUSTRALIA
Image caption Kerry Robertson ended her life after ceasing treatment for terminal cancer

An Australian woman with terminal cancer has become the first person to end their life under new assisted dying laws, a charity says.

Kerry Robertson, 61, died at a nursing home in the state of Victoria in July.

She was granted permission to use the controversial legislation - which exists only in Victoria but is being considered in other states - after a 26-day approval process.

Her family said she was able to have "the empowered death that she wanted".

Ms Robertson was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2010, and it later spread to her bones, lungs, brain and liver.

She decided to stop chemotherapy and radiation treatment in March after the side effects and pain became "intolerable", her family said.

Victoria's legislation, which came into effect in June, allows terminally ill patients who meet certain requirements the right to access lethal drugs.

"We were beside her, David Bowie playing in the background, surrounded by love, with final words spoken, simple and dignified," said her daughter, Nicole Robertson, in a statement released by charity Go Gentle Australia.

"To me that is the greatest part: the knowledge that we did everything we could to make her happy in life and comfortable in death."

Who is eligible?

The state's law has 68 safeguards and is designed for people who are in severe pain.

It requires the person to make three requests to end their life to specially trained doctors. The person must be aged at least 18 and have less than six months to live.

Image copyright GO GENTLE AUSTRALIA
Image caption Kerry Robertson with her daughters Jacqui (left) and Nicole (right)

The bill was passed in 2017 after more than 100 hours of parliamentary debate that deeply divided state lawmakers.

Ms Robertson's family said she had applied to utilise the legislation on the day it came into effect in June.

Western Australia and Queensland are considering similar laws.

In 1995, Australia's Northern Territory introduced the world's first voluntary euthanasia law, but it was overturned by federal authorities in Canberra eight months later. The federal government does not have the same power over states.

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Media captionWhy a UK man decided to end his life in Switzerland

Laws allowing terminally ill patients to legally end their lives with a doctor's supervision have been passed in countries including Canada, the Netherlands and Belgium.

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