Within Australia, there have been many attempts to pass voluntary euthanasia (VE) or physician-assisted suicide (PAS) legislation. From 16 June 1993 until the date of writing, 51 Bills have been introduced into Australian parliaments dealing with legalising VE or PAS. Despite these numerous attempts, the only successful Bill was the Rights of the Terminally Ill Act 1995 (NT), which was enacted in the Northern Territory, but a short time later overturned by the controversial Euthanasia Laws Act 1997 (Cth). Yet, in stark contrast to the significant political opposition, for decades Australian public opinion has overwhelmingly supported law reform legalising VE or PAS.
While there is ongoing debate in Australia, both through public discourse and scholarly publications, about the merits and dangers of reform in this field, there has been remarkably little analysis of the numerous legislative attempts to reform the law, and the context in which those reform attempts occurred. The aim of this article is to better understand the reform landscape in Australia over the past two decades. The information provided in this article will better equip Australians, both politicians and the general public, to have a more nuanced understanding of the political context in which the euthanasia debate has been and is occurring. It will also facilitate a more informed debate in the future.