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Voluntary Assisted Dying

There has been a lot of community and media discussion on The Voluntary Assisted Dying Bill 2017 currently before Parliament.

Health Minister Jill Hennessy tabled the Bill on Wednesday, 21st September and debate is scheduled to resume on October 17 in the Lower House. If successful the Bill will go to the Upper House for debate and vote.

The proposed bill contains all 68 safeguards recommended by the Ministerial Advisory Panel’s final report on a safe and compassionate framework for Voluntary Assisted Dying. Whilst the bill is modelled on the U.S. Oregon legislation, the bill before parliament if passed will be the most conservative Voluntary Assisted Dying legislation operating worldwide.

COTA Victoria is focused on the rights of older people to be accurately informed and supported in their decision-making regarding their own end of life choices. We urge sensitive and respectful discussion by all politicians as they debate the bill.

What is being proposed in Victoria’s Voluntary Assisted Dying Bill

To be eligible to access voluntary assisted dying a person must:

  • Be over 18 years of age
  • Be an Australian citizen or permanent resident and ordinarily reside in Victoria
  • Have decision-making capacity in relation to voluntary assisted dying
  • Be diagnosed with a disease, illness or medical condition that is incurable
  • Be suffering in a way that cannot be relieved in a way you consider “tolerable”.
  • Also be expected to die “within weeks or months, but not exceeding 12 months”

A person who meets the above eligibility must initiate the request themselves. A treating Doctor, family members or carers cannot make a request on behalf of someone.

Once a person requests access to VAD, there is a three-step request process involving two independent medical assessments. A person can withdraw at any time from the process.

A person must make three separate requests to access Voluntary Assisted Dying. This does not include requesting information on how to access Voluntary Assisted Dying.

The first request must be initiated by the person and be made to a registered and trained medical practitioner. They must advise the patient of all treatment options and their likely outcomes, including Palliative Care.

The second request must be written and signed by the person in the presence of 2 witnesses who cannot benefit financially or in any material way from the death of the person making the declaration nor can they be involved in the healthcare of the person. The two witnesses must certify that the person appears to be voluntarily signing the declaration, have decision–making capacity and understand the nature and effect of signing the declaration. This is then signed in the presence of the co-ordinating medical practitioner.

The 3rd and final request is then made to the co-ordinating medical practitioner.

A period of at least 10 days must lapse between the first and final request except where the prognosis is for less than 10 days.

The proposed bill covers the rights of medical and health practitioners to conscientiously object, oversight and processes that cover breaches and the appropriate authorities involved.

COTA Victoria will keep you informed and if you have specific questions or concerns please let us know. Read our submission to the Ministerial Advisory Panel on Voluntary Assisted Dying here.

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