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Voluntary assisted dying laws begin

From June 19, 2019, Victorians at the end of life who are suffering and who meet strict eligibility criteria will be able to request access to voluntary assisted dying.

07 Jun 2019

Information for Members

On November 29, 2017, the Victorian Parliament passed the Voluntary Assisted Dying Act 2017.

From June 19, 2019, Victorians at the end of life who are suffering and who meet strict eligibility criteria will be able to request access to voluntary assisted dying.

The law allows for an 18-month implementation period to give health services time to plan and prepare for voluntary assisted dying.

Health Victoria provides an extensive range of information for ‘consumer and community information’ as well as ‘health practitioners and services information’. These are available at: https://www2.health.vic.gov.au/hospitals-and-health-services/patient-care/end-of-life-care/voluntary-assisted-dying/health-practitioners.

These resources include explicit information for doctors who wish to participate in VAD as well as those who do not wish to participate including those with a conscientious objection to VAD. Guidance is also provided for doctors and other healthcare practitioners on how to respond to a patient’s request for information on VAD (A health practitioner who is providing health or professional care services to a patient cannot initiate a discussion about voluntary assisted dying or suggest voluntary assisted dying to the patient. They can, however, respond to a patient’s request for information).

Through the AMA Victoria Peer Support or VDHP, AMA Victoria will continue to support all Victorian members and listen to their views during the VAD process. Please refer to the AMA Victoria website at https://amavic.com.au/policy-and-advocacy/voluntary-assisted-dying

Background information to VAD services in Victoria

How the service works (from Health Victoria, Voluntary Assisted Dying, Overview)

  • Voluntary assisted dying is only for people who are suffering from an incurable, advanced and progressive disease, illness or medical condition, who are experiencing intolerable suffering. The condition must be assessed by two medical practitioners and be expected to cause death within six months. The doctors will make sure the person is making a fully informed decision and is aware of the available palliative care options. 
  • There is an exception for a person suffering from a neurodegenerative condition, where instead the condition must be expected to cause death within 12 months.
  • Voluntary assisted dying will only be available to Victorians who are over the age of 18 who have lived in Victoria for at least 12 months, and who have decision-making capacity. To be eligible for voluntary assisted dying they must be experiencing suffering that cannot be relieved in a manner the person considers tolerable.
  • Mental illness or disability alone are not grounds for access to voluntary assisted dying, but people who meet all other criteria, and who have a disability or mental illness, will not be denied access to voluntary assisted dying.
  • Only the person wanting to access voluntary assisted dying may initiate discussions with health practitioners about voluntary assisted dying. A family member or carer can’t request voluntary assisted dying on somebody else’s behalf.
  • On receiving a final request, the doctor will apply for a permit to prescribe a medication that the person may use to end their life at a time of their choosing. The person must administer the medication themselves, unless they are physically unable to do so, in which case their doctor may assist.
  • No health practitioner or healthcare provider will be obliged to participate in voluntary assisted dying. 

Published: 07 Jun 2019