In 2017, the Victorian government introduced the Voluntary Assisted Dying Bill 2017 (Vic), which will come into effect in 2019. The purpose of this bill is to regulate and facilitate the process by which Victorians could be permitted to make informed decisions regarding their own end of life choices.
'Voluntary Assisted Dying' (VAD) means 'the administration of a voluntary assisted dying substance and includes steps reasonably related to such administration'.
Eligibility for Access to VAD
To be eligible to access VAD, a person must -
- Be over 18 years of age;
- Be an Australian citizen or permanent resident and who ordinarily resides in Victoria for 12 months prior to making the first request for VAD;
- Have decision making capacity in relation to VAD;
- Be diagnosed with a disease, illness or medical condition that is incurable, advanced, progressive and will cause death, and is expected to cause death within less than 6 months; and
- Be experiencing suffering that cannot be relived in a manner that the person considers tolerable.
Should you be suffering from a mental illness or disability, such as Alzheimer's or dementia, this will not be enough to qualify you for VAD. If you have lost decision making capacity and have a Power of Attorney enacted, your Attorney cannot access VAD for you. To be able to access VAD you must have decision making capacity and be of sound mind.
Process to Apply for VAD Access
If a person of sound mind wishes to access VAD, they must make a clear and unambiguous request to a registered medical practitioner personally. A request for VAD cannot be made by your Attorney or included in your Advanced Care Directive.
The medical practitioner then has 7 days to either accept or refuse the request. Should the medical practitioner approve the request, they must then refer to the patient to another medical practitioner for further assessment.
The patient cannot issue the request with just any doctor, the doctor must be a medical practitioner for at least 5 years and have relevant expertise and experience in the disease, illness or medical condition expected to cause the death of the patient.
At the end of the second consultation with the medical practitioner, the medical practitioner must be satisfied that the person has understood the information, that they are acting voluntarily and without coercion and has made a request that is enduring.
Should you wish to access the VAD and have been approved, you must then appoint a contact person to monitor the prescribed the VAD substance. The contact person is responsible for the return of the VAD substance if it is not used. You can request a self-administration permit or a practitioner administration permit for the substance.
If the self-administration permit is granted and you subsequently lose the ability to self-administer the prescribed substance the patient will have to apply for a new practitioner administration permit. Should the latter be obtained, the prescription may only be administered at the request of the patient.
It is an offence for a person other than the patient to knowingly administer the VAD substance. The recommended penalty for breach is life imprisonment.
Should the contact person not return any unused or remaining prescribed VAD within one month after the death of the patient, they would be guilty of offence under the VAD legislation with a recommended penalty of imprisonment of a maximum of 12 months.