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Call for changes to Vic assisted dying law

Go Gentle Australia has called on the Victorian government to make urgent changes to the way Voluntary Assisted Dying services operate in the state.

The Victorian government is conducting a mandatory five-year review of the operation of the Voluntary Assisted Dying Act 2017 and has called for community input into ways services can be improved.

In a submission to the review process, Go Gentle said: “Overall, Victoria’s VAD Act has … met its goal to provide a ‘safe and compassionate’ legislative framework for terminally ill Victorians to access VAD.

“[However] … almost five years of VAD practice has shown that some provisions, intended as safeguards, actually operate as barriers to access for eligible people. The implementation of VAD laws in other states has also demonstrated that Victoria’s law – as the first – did not get the balance between safety and access entirely right.”

Go Gentle said among the most urgent recommendations was to allow health practitioners to raise VAD with patients in the context of a discussion about all available end-of-life choices. 

“The ban on health practitioners initiating discussions about VAD was intended as a safeguard, but in practice it is limiting access for eligible people,” says Go Gentle’s CEO, Dr Linda Swan.

“Like palliative care, VAD is a legitimate, legal end-of-life choice and Victorians have a right to know about all their care and treatment options.”

Dr Swan said other states’ VAD laws permitted health professionals to raise the subject of  VAD in defined circumstances. “It is essential that Victorian practitioners have the same right.”

Other key recommendations include to:

  • Secure immediate reform of the Criminal Code Act 1995 (Cth) to allow the use of Telehealth in VAD consultations.
  • Extend the timeframe to death requirement from six months to12 months for all conditions, with provision for compassionate exemption.  
  • Remove the requirement that one of the VAD assessments be conducted by a specialist in the person’s illness or condition.
  • Remove the requirement for a third specialist opinion for neurodegenerative conditions.
  • Provide additional funding to cover the costs incurred by VAD practitioners.

Go Gentle also recommended: removing the 12-month residency requirement; allowing long-term residents who are not Australian citizens or permanent residents to access VAD; removing or streamlining  the permit system; and a greater role for nurses in the VAD process.

Dr Swan said while some of the recommended reforms fell outside the strict operational scope of the review, Go Gentle urged the government to consider the changes. 

“We believe it is important to put this information on the record and we urge the government to make whatever reforms are necessary to ensure Victorians have information about and access to high-quality end-of-life care.”

Read the full Go Gentle submission here 


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