Victoria moves another step closer to Assisted Dying Bill

THE Victorian government has released its Ministerial Advisory Panel's final report on the proposed Voluntary Assisted Dying Bill.

The recommendations, if adopted, will form the base of Australia's first program to offer terminally ill patients the right to choose when they die.

The advisory panel, chaired by Professor Brian Owler, recommends that for a person to access voluntary assisted dying, they must meet all of the following eligibility criteria:

  • be an adult, 18 years and over; and
  • be ordinarily resident in Victoria and an Australian citizen or permanent resident; and
  • have decision-making capacity in relation to voluntary assisted dying; and
  • be diagnosed with an incurable disease, illness or medical condition, that:
    • is advanced, progressive and will cause death; and
    • is expected to cause death within weeks or months, but not longer than 12 months; and
    • is causing suffering that cannot be relieved in a manner the person deems tolerable.

It also recommends that requests for voluntary assisted dying or for information about voluntary assisted dying, "can only be initiated by the person.

"Requests cannot be initiated by others, including family and carers," the report states.

These requests to die are required to be made three separate times; a first request to their medical practitioner, followed by a witnessed written declaration of enduring request to the coordinating medical practitioner, before a final request to the coordinating medical practitioner can be made only after 10 days since the first request was lodged.

"The recommended eligibility criteria ensure voluntary assisted dying will allow a small number of people, at the end of their lives, to choose the timing and manner of their death", the report states.

"There is no intention to give people who are not dying access, and the legislation will not give these people an option to choose between living and dying.

"The eligibility criteria ensure the voluntary assisted dying framework provides a compassionate response to people who are close to death and choose to request voluntary assisted dying to give them greater control over the timing and manner of their death.

"The Panel recommends that a person must have decision-making capacity throughout the voluntary assisted dying process. This requirement is fundamental to ensuring a person's decision to access voluntary assisted dying is their own, is voluntary, and is not the product of undue influence or coercion.

"The Panel recognises that this will mean some people who may want to request voluntary assisted dying will be excluded. People with dementia who do not have decision-making capacity, for example, will not be able to access voluntary assisted dying.

"People will also not be able to request voluntary assisted dying in an advance care directive.

"This may disappoint many people in the community, but the Panel is of the view that having decision-making capacity throughout the voluntary assisted dying process is a fundamental safeguard."

Overall, 66 recommendations are contained in the report which, if adopted, may see an implementation taskforce established to work with stakeholders on activating the bill in Victoria.

A reply to the recommendations by the Victorian government is expected during the coming weeks. 


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