Victorian assisted dying law commences
From today, Victorians will be able to access assisted dying services, as voluntary euthanasia legislation passed in 2017 comes into effect.
The main provisions of the Voluntary Assisted Dying Act 2017 commenced in Victoria on 19 June 2019.
The Act allows Victorians with terminal illnesses to end their lives with dignity, subject to strict controls and requirements.
“This is about giving people a compassionate choice, a dignified option at the end of their life – if they qualify – choices that have been denied to too many for far too long,” Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews told the Today programme.
In order to access an assisted dying service, a patient must make a first request to their medical practitioner, be assessed as eligible, make a written declaration, make a final request and appoint a contact person.
To be eligible to access an assisted dying service a person must be diagnosed with an incurable medical condition that is expected to cause death within six months (or 12 months for neurodegenerative conditions).
They must also be at least 18 years old, be an Australian citizen or permanent resident, have been ordinarily resident in Victoria for at least 12 months, and have decision-making capacity.
Mental illnesses and disabilities are specifically excluded from the eligibility criteria.
Assessment is conducted by two separate medical practitioners, who must have been registered GPs or specialists for at least five years.
The coordinating medical practitioner must certify that the correct process has been followed, then apply for and receive a permit to either administer or prescribe the appropriate substance to end the life.
“We’ve put these checks and balances in case, we’ve listened to the experts, we’ve taken a conservative approach,” Mr Andrews said. “Ultimately, we’ve taken a compassionate approach to give to people that choice, those options, that dignity for hopefully a good death which is a really important part of a good quality of life.”
It is estimated that the process would take at least 10 days from the making of a first request.
Medical practitioners are prohibited from suggesting assisted dying to patients, and it is an offence to induce another person to request assisted dying.
The Victorian Government expects about 12 people will access services under the new legislation this year, increasing up to about 150 each year thereafter.
According to Mr Andrews 120 doctors have been trained or enrolled in adequate training to operate under the new laws, with a third of those in regional areas.
Although the bill was passed in 2017, an 18 month transitional period was required to allow the Victorian Government to establish the necessary procedures and bodies to manage the new system.
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