Austria, AUKUS and VAD

The Austria, AUKUS and VAD connection

A population group equivalent to everyone living in Australia, the UK and the USA – the AUKUS alliance - now live in a country where a compassionate choice at the end of life has been made legal. A Voluntary Assisted Dying (VAD) law has been passed - or a court has ruled - that a medically assisted death is legal in 13 countries. Some parliaments were persuaded to pass their laws when the court gave them an ultimatum: pass a VAD law or the court will allow VAD with no regulation.

On New Year’s Eve 2021, Austria, a predominantly Catholic country, became the 13th country to provide its citizens with a compassionate legal choice of an assisted death at the end of life. Voluntary Assisted Dying was approved by Austria’s parliament on the last possible date allowed by a ruling of the constitutional court, which gave the parliament a year to lift the ban on assisted dying.

Similar to Voluntary Assisted Dying laws in Australia, each person in Austria will need to be assessed by two doctors before they will be eligible to access VAD. 

There are now 422 million people around the world who have (or will soon have once the law commences) access to a compassionate end of life choice if they have a terminal illness and meet all the eligibility criteria. The 422 million people living in a VAD jurisdiction includes one in five citizens in the USA and two in three Australians.

Countries which have passed VAD laws are Austria, Belgium, Canada, Luxembourg, Netherlands, New Zealand, Spain, Switzerland.

Countries where the courts have authorised VAD are Colombia, Germany and Italy.

In the USA, 10 states and Washington DC have legalised VAD.

In Australia, five of the six states have legalised VAD; in NSW a VAD law has passed the lower house and is waiting debate in the upper house; the ACT and NT are prohibited by Commonwealth legislation from passing a VAD law.

Countries with a VAD law (January 2022)


Population (millions)

Year passed Year commenced
Austria 9 2021 2021
Belgium 11.6 2002 2002
Canada 38.5 2016 2016
Colombia 51 1997 2014 (following Court ruling)
Germany 83.1 2020 Court ruling
Italy 59.1 2019 Court ruling (being tested 2021)
Luxembourg 0.6 2009 2009
Netherlands 17.7 2001 2002 (permitted since 1973)
New Zealand 5.1 2019 2021
Spain 47.4 2021 2021
Switzerland 8.7 1942 1942
USA (73.6 of 332)    
Oregon 4.2 1994 1997
Washington 7.7 2008 2009
Montana 1.1 2009 Court ruling Baxter v Montana
Vermont 0.7 2013 2013
California 39.2 2015 2016
Colorado 5.8 2016 2016
Washington DC 0.7 2016 2017
Hawaii 1.4 2018 2019
New Jersey 9.3 2019 2019
Maine 1.4 2019 2019
New Mexico 2.1 2021 2021
Australia (16.9 of 25.7)    
Victoria 6.7 2017 2019
Western Australia 2.7 2019 2021
Tasmania 0.5 2021 Anticipated in 2022
South Australia 1.8 2021 Anticipated in 2022
Queensland 5.2 2021 Anticipated in 2022