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Tasmania confirms five VAD deaths

Five terminally ill Tasmanians have ended their life through voluntary assisted dying (VAD) in the law’s first four months, according to the state’s VAD Commission.

The statutory body confirmed in a statement that “the Act is continuing to operate as intended and the safeguards applied through the legislation are working”.

“In the first four months of operation, 24 formal first requests from individuals to access voluntary assisted dying in Tasmania were made,” the statement reads.

“Of those requests, 11 progressed to the point where medical practitioners were given authorisation to access the VAD substance for the individual.

“For several reasons, not all individuals who make a formal first request, or whose medical practitioner is given authorisation to access the VAD substance, proceed to the final stage of the VAD process. The Commission is aware of at least five people who have died through the VAD process since the Act’s commencement.”

Tasmanians have been able to access legal voluntary assisted dying since 23 October 2022.

Phil Laing and family

'It was just so beautiful'

In January, 67-year-old Phil Laing (pictured above with his family), a wine identity and former primary school teacher, became the first identified Tasmanian to die using the VAD law .

Suffering intolerably with motor neurone disease (MND), he died three days after Christmas after having a wine on the back deck of his Sandy Bay home with his wife Sally, daughter Rose and close friends by his side, The Mercury newspaper reported.

“It was a beautiful sunny day, he had a glass of wine with everyone," his daughter, Rose, said. "He said his goodbyes, the nurse was amazing.

“It was just so beautiful, we couldn’t have had it any better."

Health practitioner participation 'positive'

The VAD Commission also confirmed that 50 clinicians had so far undertaken the mandatory VAD training, including 23 doctors and 21 registered nurses.

“Access to voluntary assisted dying depends on the participation of eligible, willing, and trained practitioners.

“Of the 23 medical practitioners who completed the training, 16 indicated they were willing to be Primary Medical Practitioners and/or Consulting Medical Practitioners. Of the 21 registered nurses, 15 indicated that they were willing to be Administering Health Practitioners.

“These figures are positive, Tasmania is a small jurisdiction with relatively small numbers of medical practitioners overall."

The Commission noted that experience from other states had been that “the number of VAD practitioners will be low initially but increase over time”.

“The training is available free of charge for medical practitioners and registered nurses, and we would encourage any practitioner wishing to access the VAD training to call 1800 568 956 or email [email protected] "

The law in Tasmania

Tasmania’s VAD law is similar to other Australian VAD laws and has strict eligibility criteria. To use the law, a person must be:

  • Aged 18+
  • An Australian citizen or permanent resident who has lived in Tasmania for at least 12 months (or continuously resident in Australia for three years)
  • Diagnosed with an incurable disease, illness, medical condition or injury that:

    • is advanced, progressive and will cause death within six months (or 12 months if you have a neurodegenerative disorder, such as motor neurone disease)
    • is causing suffering that cannot be relieved in a manner the person finds tolerable
  • Capable of making decisions about their medical treatment and communicate those decisions throughout the assessment process
  • Acting freely and without coercion

A person must make three separate requests for voluntary assisted dying and have the approval of two doctors.

A person who wishes to access VAD in Tasmania should first have a conversation with their medical practitioner. If their medical practitioner is unable to assist them, they can contact the VAD Navigation Service by calling 1800 568 956 or by emailing [email protected]

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