From tomorrow, eligible patients will be able to request access to voluntary assisted dying (VAD) in the state – the first time in 20 years in Australia.
There are strict protocols in place for accessing the scheme. To be eligible, patients must be independently assessed by two doctors to be suffering from a condition expected to cause death within six months, or 12 months for a neurodegenerative condition.
Patients must also be an Australian citizen or permanent resident over the age of 18, possess decision-making capacity throughout the entire process, and have lived in Victoria for at least 12 months prior to making the request.
Critically, people with a degenerative brain condition such as Alzheimer’s disease are eligible to access VAD, provided they meet all other criteria, though having a condition such as dementia alone is not deemed sufficient cause to access the scheme, and the patient will lose access if it affects their decision-making abilities. The same criteria apply to patients with a mental illness or disability.
Following the doctors’ assessment, the patient must sign a written request confirming they are making an informed, voluntary and enduring decision, as well as make a final verbal request.
The whole process can also not happen in fewer than 10 days unless the person is expected to die within that time.
Based on international figures, the state government estimates around 100 to 150 people will choose to voluntarily end their lives with assistance each year – including some in aged care.
Several religious providers however have voiced their opposition to the new laws.
It will be an issue that providers will have to grapple with regardless – and not just in Victoria. Western Australia and Queensland are also considering similar legislation.
The Victorian health department has more guidance for aged care providers HERE.