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Safety and Quality Commission recognises VAD in end-of-life care statement

The Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care (ACSQHC) has included voluntary assisted dying (VAD) in its statement on the essential elements of end-of-life care, following calls by Go Gentle Australia.

This statement provides important guidance to all involved in the provision and delivery of end-of-life care and sets expectations for the sector, and sits alongside important documents such as the Australian Charter of Healthcare Rights.

The incorporation of VAD is an important milestone for Go Gentle Australia, as one of our key aims is to integrate VAD into standard end-of-life care.

The updated statement, released in December 2023, confirms that ‘People opting for voluntary assisted dying should continue to receive the safe and high‑quality end‑of‑life care described in this document.’ This confirms there should be no difference in the level of care provided to someone choosing VAD. This applies irrespective of the setting: hospital, hospice, residential aged care facilities or home care.

The statement contains nine ‘guiding principles’ to guide how end-of-life care should be approached, including that it should be person-centred, align with the dying person’s values, and ensure the right to refuse treatment.

The statement also contains ten ‘essential elements’ for staff and services involved in delivering end-of-life care. Voluntary assisted dying is mentioned twice. First, that leadership and governance teams should consider how to manage and enable access to VAD for eligible patients. Second, that healthcare workers should receive education and support to:

Understand end‑of‑life ethical and medico‑legal issues… including:

  • refusal of treatment
  • withholding and withdrawing treatment 
  • futile or non-beneficial treatment
  • voluntary assisted dying

The Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care is a publicly funded body which works with the Australian government and state and territory health services to set standards of care and provide information.

There is also a specific Commission for Aged Care, which regulates the aged care industry. Go Gentle Australia also seeks to include voluntary assisted dying in their work.

Voluntary assisted dying laws are now operating in all six states, with the territories expected to follow. It is vital that voluntary assisted dying is understood by health providers and that dying people receive high-quality care, no matter their choices about how they die.

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