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Court upholds assisted suicide law in Australia

Published Sep. 16, 2005

An Australian court has upheld the world's first voluntary euthanasia law, striking down a legal challenge by doctors and aborigines.

The challenge in the Northern Territory Supreme Court was one of several attempts to scuttle the law, which allows doctors to administer lethal doses of drugs to the terminally ill.

A bill also is pending in Parliament that would override the law.

Euthanasia became legal in the Northern Territory on July 1, more than one year after the regional legislature passed the bill.

Doctors have refused to use the law until the legal challenge has run its course, fearing they could be subject to murder charges if the law is struck down.

In the territory court challenge, plaintiffs backed by the Australian Medical Association and aboriginal religious groups said the law was invalid because the Northern Territory did not have the power to make life-and-death decisions.

The court split 2-1 in ruling that the territory was within its rights.