What you need to know about voluntary assisted dying laws in Victoria

On the 19th of June 2019, the Voluntary Assisted Dying Act (2017) (“the Act”) came into effect, making Victoria the first state in Australia to legalise voluntary assisted dying.

What are the requirements to be able to voluntarily pass away?

The legislation has been designed to balance an individual’s right to autonomy against the sanctity of life, whilst also protecting the vulnerable in our society.  The Act establishes clear eligibility criteria and detailed steps which are required to be met before an individual can end their own life.  To access voluntary assisted dying, a person must meet all of the following criteria:

  • be an Australian citizen and Victorian resident for at least 12 months;
  • be over the age of 18;
  • have decision-making capacity in relation to voluntary assisted dying
  • be diagnosed with a disease, illness or medical condition that is incurable, is progressively advanced and will cause death within 6 months (or 12 months for those with a neurodegenerative condition)
  • be suffering in a manner that the person considers intolerable

Can a Medical Treatment Decision Maker make a request on behalf of the patient?

An individual selected as a proxy by a patient’s Appointment of Medical Treatment Decision Maker cannot request access to voluntary assisted dying.  A medical treatment decision maker is only empowered to accept or refuse medical treatment on behalf of the principal when they are incapable of doing so themselves.

In order to safeguard patients from undue pressure, the request must come from the patient themselves, it is not a conversation that can be initiated by a medical practitioner or anyone else on behalf of the patient.  Furthermore, the patient must make three separate requests and undergo formal assessment by two independent medical practitioners.  A permit is then applied for to prescribe the medication which may be self-administered or administered by the doctor.

Can an individual request voluntary assisted dying in their Advanced Care Directive?

An Advanced Care Directive in Victoria allows an individual to make instructional directives (i.e. binding) regarding their medical treatment or values directives (i.e. wishes).

A request to access voluntary assisted dying cannot be made in the instructional directive but a reference may be made to in the values directive as guidance for other medical treatment decisions.

If you require any assistance with the planning of your estate or have any confusion about the roles of a Power of Attorney, contact Rabia Javed-May, Laura Harding or Noor Othman from Morrows Legal to book a consultation.

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