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NSW embracing voluntary assisted dying

There has been a strong demand for VAD in NSW, a new report on the first three months of the state's VAD law reveals.

An interim report from the NSW Voluntary Assisted Dying Board shows 517 people made a first request to access VAD in the first three months and 131 died from administration of a VAD substance.

At 29 February, 250 health professionals had undertaken VAD training and 123 authorised practitioners had supported a patient seeking to access VAD.

Professor Jenni Millbank, Chairperson of the VAD Board, acknowledged the practitioners who had supported eligible people to access VAD, “as well as all healthcare workers involved in providing care and support to these people throughout the process”.

“This important new end-of-life option would not be possible without your dedication and commitment to providing high-quality and person-centred care,” she said.

Prof Millbank also acknowledged the high demand for VAD in the first three months and that the number of deaths was only one indication of VAD's benefits.

“We know from the experience in other states as well as our first few months of operations that some people who receive a substance authority from the Board may ultimately choose not to take the substance. Knowing the substance is available to them gives these people the power of choice, and may provide a degree of relief and comfort in their final days and weeks.”

Strong demand and exceptional care

Dr Linda Swan, Go Gentle Australia’s CEO, welcomed the interim report.

“These data show the voluntary assisted dying law in NSW was long overdue. As the last state to legalise, many people had been waiting to apply when VAD became available last November. As awareness grows we expect more dying people will choose VAD at the end of life.

“Over the past few months, dying people and their families have told us about the exceptional care and compassion they've experienced in the VAD process. NSW Health should be very proud of the person-centred system they have put in place."

Dr Swan said she welcomed the Board’s acknowledgement that the Commonwealth prohibition on using telehealth for VAD discussions is significantly restricting access to VAD in NSW.

“It’s interesting to see that two-thirds of applicants came from regional NSW. Given the federal ban on telecommunications in the VAD processes, delivering VAD services to these applicants is unnecessarily complex and time consuming. That high-quality care is being delivered is a credit to the healthcare professionals who are going above and beyond to make sure VAD is a choice no matter your postcode. 

“Expecting health professionals to work around an outdated federal ban on telecommunications is unsustainable. We join the Board’s call for reform to this federal law as soon as possible."  

The statistics

In the first three months of VAD in NSW

  • 517 people made a first request to access voluntary assisted dying. This includes every person who made a first request, regardless of whether the request was accepted or refused. 
  • 408 patients had a first assessment, noting that only patients with an accepted first request can proceed to a first assessment.
  • 321 patients had a consulting assessment.
  • 246 applications were approved for a substance authorisation.
  • 131 patients died from administration of a voluntary assisted dying substance.

Of the people who received a first assessment

  • 56.9% identified as male.
  • 2.5% (10) identified as Aboriginal.
  • The most prevalent age group was 70–79 years, with the next most prevalent age group being 80–89 years.
  • 34.8% lived in Greater Sydney, 65.0% lived in regional NSW and 0.2% (1) lived outside of NSW.

Of the people granted a substance authority

  • 70.3% made a practitioner administration decision and 29.7% made a self-administration decision.
  • 71.1% had a cancer related diagnosis.
  • 17.1% were diagnosed with a neurological condition.

Read the full interim report

Learn more about VAD in NSW and contact the VAD Care Navigators  

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