For patients & families
If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with an illness that will end your life, it is wise to plan ahead for your care and treatment. For some people, this will mean exploring the option of voluntary assisted dying. Voluntary assisted dying is when a terminally ill person asks their doctor for medication to end their life so they can avoid suffering in their final weeks. Laws to allow this choice have now passed in every Australian state.
On this page
To access voluntary assisted dying in Australia, you must be:
Diagnosed with an incurable disease, illness or medical condition that:
- is advanced, progressive and will cause death within 6-12 months (depending on your disease)
Capable of making decisions about their medical treatment and communicate those decisions throughout the assessment process
Acting freely and without coercion
An Australian citizen or permanent resident who has lived in your chosen state for at least 12 months
Voluntary assisted dying is not an emergency treatment and the application process can take months.
Speak to your doctor
They are unlikely to suggest voluntary assisted dying to you – in some states, it is illegal to do so – so start the conversation yourself.
If your doctor refuses
It could be because they are not trained in VAD or they have opted out for whatever reason. You are within your rights to ask to see another doctor, or seek advice from the Care Navigators.
Contact the VAD Care Navigators in your state
They are a specially trained team that supports people through the voluntary assisted dying process.
Prepare your documents
As part of the VAD application process, you'll need to provide documents that prove your age, residential status, and medical condition. Take a look at this checklist for more information.
If your condition deteriorates quickly
It may be possible to speed up the VAD application process if there is a risk you may die sooner than anticipated or lose the ability to make decisions. Ask your doctor and the Care Navigators if you think this might apply to you.
Tell your aged care home or retirement village
Not all facilities allow voluntary assisted dying on their premises and other arrangements may need to be made.
You may want to speak to your loved ones about your plans
However, if you prefer not to, it’s perfectly legal to keep your medical choices confidential.
You can pause, stop or change your mind at any time
Right up until the last moment, you can say you no longer want voluntary assisted dying and the process will stop immediately, no questions asked.
Who is eligible, how do you access VAD, and who can help you navigate the system? Three voluntary assisted dying professionals answer your questions.
This webinar was produced for Dying to Know Day, an annual event that empowers Australians at all stages of life to live and die well.
This is my stop
This is my stop is another great podcast to help you or a family member navigate the VAD system. In this podcast, families, friends and healthcare professionals generously share their VAD journeys to support others in understanding and exploring this end-of-life choice.
Access the podcast here.
VAD is a unique and relatively new way to die. Those who have been closely involved often describe it as overwhelmingly positive. However, like any death, when a life ends through VAD there will be complicated emotions. These complexities of grieving after a voluntary assisted death aren't always understood.
Dealing with a terminal illness that limits your quality of life is a challenge. Experiencing the death of a loved one, or sharing details about their death, can be upsetting. Sometimes emotions surface immediately, sometimes this comes much later. If you are struggling, please seek support.
How do you prepare for your end of life? What is Advanced Care Planning? And what is a Power of Attorney?
'There are many steps. It takes great determination'
Fiona McLure's terminal cancer led her to choose voluntary assisted dying in Victoria in 2021.
'With you every step of the way'
This video by palliative care nurses at Victoria's Western Health network explains how VAD and palliative care work together to help people at the end of life.
'What a beautiful way to spend your last hours'
'My husband Stephen was one of the first people to use WA's law. I hope sharing our story will help break the stigma that still surrounds voluntary assisted dying.'