Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews (right) and wife Catherine Andrews (left) attend the funeral of former Australian prime minister Malcolm Fraser in Melbourne on March 27, 2015. Australia's Victoria state on Nov 29, 2017 becomes the first Australian state to legalize voluntary euthanasia. (THEO KARANIKOS / POOL / AFP)
SYDNEY -- Victoria on Wednesday became the first Australian state to legalize voluntary euthanasia.
Legislation was passed by the Victorian parliament on Wednesday morning after more than 100 hours were spent debating the bill.
Victoria is the first state to pass voluntary assisted dying laws in Australia, giving Victorians with a terminal illness the compassion and dignity they deserve at the end of their lives
Daniel Andrews, Premier, Victoria, Australia
Under the new laws, patients with a terminal illness will be able to request a lethal drug to end their lives beginning in mid-2019.
The law has been described as one of the most conservative among its kind in the world with patients required to submit three requests in 10 days ratified by two doctors before they are granted access to the medication.
Premier Daniel Andrews, who came to support euthanasia following the death of his father in 2016, praised colleagues, particularly Health Minister Jill Hennessy, for their work on the bill.
"Victoria is the first state to pass voluntary assisted dying laws in Australia, giving Victorians with a terminal illness the compassion and dignity they deserve at the end of their lives," he told reporters in Melbourne.
"I'm proud today that we have put compassion right at the centre of our parliamentary and our political process."
"That is politics at its best and it's Victoria doing what it does best, leading our nation."
The bill first passed the lower house of parliament in October before moving to the upper house where changes were made before it was passed.
The lower house ratified those changes, most notably changing the timeframe for eligible patients to access the scheme from 12 months to six months to live, on Wednesday.
Other safeguards in the bill include the requirement for a patient to have lived in Victoria for at least 12 months before accessing the medication and a requirement that anyone with a mental illness must be psychiatrically assessed before being allowed to end their life.
"After two and a half years of hard work and consideration by so many in our Parliament, the passing of the Bill will finally give Victorians more control, compassion and support at the end of their lives," Hennessy said in a media release on Wednesday.
The bill also creates a series of criminal offenses to protect vulnerable people from abuse and coercion. It also establishes a special board to review every request for medically-assisted suicide.