The right to life has been interpreted broadly in international human rights law. It places both a positive and negative duty on public authorities. The scope of these duties may change over time.

Presently, the positive duty requires public authorities to:

  • put in place a system for the administration of the criminal law aimed at safeguarding the lives of persons in Victoria supported by adequate law enforcement machinery;
  • undertake effective official investigations into the circumstances of some deaths;
  • protect the lives of persons in their care.

The negative duty requires public authorities to refrain from the arbitrary deprivation of life. However, in some circumstances the use of force that may result in the deprivation of life is permitted.

The right to life is also relevant in the context of access to medical treatment and therapeutic drugs.

Pursuant to s. 48 of the Charter, it will not be necessary to vet legislation on abortion or child destruction for compliance with the Charter.

The right to life has not been interpreted as including a right to die with the assistance of a third person or public authority.