Federal MPs should have free vote on euthanasia, Senate committee says

Federal MPs should have a free vote on euthanasia, a Senate committee has recommended.

Tabling its report on proposals to legalise voluntary euthanasia drafted by Greens Senator Richard Di Natale, the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee said that if a bill on the issue of euthanasia was introduced in the Senate, party leaders should allow Senators to vote according to their consciences.

Senator Di Natale's bill, which he has not formally introduced to the Senate, would make it legal for medical practitioners to help a terminally ill, mentally competent adult end their life.

In what constitutes the first consideration by Federal Parliament of national euthanasia laws, the six-member committee, which includes three Coalition, two Labor and one Greens Senator, recommended Senator Di Natale address several technical concerns, including about the definition of a terminal illness, before taking the bill further.

Senator Di Natale called on Prime Minister Tony Abbott and Opposition Leader Bill Shorten to grant their members a conscience vote.

"The community strongly supports this reform and it's time for politician's to listen," Senator Di Natale said.

"The Committee's report has highlighted some areas that need further discussion, which I intend to do with parliamentary colleagues from all sides before proceeding with the bill."

In 1996, party leaders granted MPs a free vote on a private members bill introduced by Liberal frontbencher Kevin Andrews to override Northern Territory laws which legalised euthanasia. The Andrews bill passed both houses of parliament, overturning the NT laws.