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Voluntary assisted dying now available in Victoria

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Voluntary assisted dying now available in Victoria

Jenny Mikakos

Voluntary assisted dying laws have come into effect in Victoria, two years after they were first passed by the state’s parliament.

The law’s implementation follows passage of the assisted dying bill through the Victorian Parliament back in 2017, and means that from now on, Victorians with a terminal illness will be able to make an initial request to access voluntary assisted dying.

A government statement has noted that it provides individuals with “the genuine and compassionate choice over the manner of their death that they deserve”.

Victorian Minister for Health Jenny Mikakos said the new laws will enable a Voluntary Assisted Dying Review Board to review each and every case of voluntary assisted dying.

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The purpose of the board is to ensure high safety standards are met, with the board to receive reports from health practitioners, monitor the dispensing of medications, report to Parliament and refer potential issues to relevant authorities.

Considered as “the most conservative [voluntary assisted dying] model in the world”, one of the safeguards outlined in a government statement said “only adults with decision-making capacity, who are suffering and who have an incurable, advanced and progressive disease, illness or medical condition that is likely to cause death within six months (or 12 months for people with neurodegenerative conditions) can access the scheme”.

Further, a person may also only access the system if they meet all of the strict eligibility criteria, make three clear requests and have two independent medical assessments that determine they are eligible.

It was also highlighted that the request for voluntary assisted death must always be initiated by the person themselves, and flagged that any health practitioners who are treating a person and raise the issue will become subject to unprofessional conduct investigations, the statement said.

The Minister for Health noted that a Melbourne-based pharmacy service will become the sole service for dispensing and deliverance of voluntary assisted dying medications across the state, “ensuring patients are provided clear information regarding administration, and that unused medications are returned and destroyed”.

It’s reported that mandatory and specialist training is already being undertaken by a number of doctors “to ensure they’re equipped to assess a patient’s eligibility to access voluntary assisted dying”, with a third of those based regionally.

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