How the Victorian law works

In November 2017, after almost three years of research and consultation — a cross-parliamentary inquiry, an expert ministerial advisory panel, countless public debates, and more than 100 hours of forensic argument in both Houses of Parliament — Victoria became the first state in Australia to pass a Voluntary Assisted Dying law. You can read its full text here.

Victoria's law came into effect in June 2019, after an eighteen-month implementation period. It offers a choice to competent adults with a terminal illness and six months or less to live. For those dying of neuro-degenerative diseases, such as MND or MS, the time frame is extended to twelve months or less to live.

In July 2019, Kerry Robertson became the first person to use the Victorian law. Read her story 'She left this world with courage and grace' here.

If you are considering making use of the law, please contact the Voluntary Assisted Dying Care Navigators, who can help you through the process. Their contact details and up-to-date information on the law can be found on the Voluntary Assisted Dying website of the Victorian Department of Health

In its first Annual Review of the law, the VAD Review Board offered valuable insights into the best way to prepare for an application. We encourage you to read those sections.

How it works

Note: this video was produced on the basis of the Voluntary Assisted Dying Bill 2017 when it was first tabled in Parliament. Final changes made during the debate were not included, as they happened AFTER the video had been made.

The key points of the Victorian Voluntary Assisted Dying Act 2017 are:

  • The person must be 18 years or over; and
  • Be a resident of Victoria for at least 12 months and an Australian citizen or permanent resident; and
  • Have decision-making capacity in relation to voluntary assisted dying; and
  • Be diagnosed with an incurable disease, illness or medical condition that:
    • is advanced, progressive and will cause death; and
    • is expected to cause death within 6 months (or 12 months in case of a neuro-degenerative disorder)
    • is causing suffering that cannot be relieved in a manner the person deems tolerable.
  • Doctors and other healthcare workers are not permitted to raise assisted dying — only to respond to formal patient requests.
  • The person must make three formal requests, the second of which must be written and witnessed by two independent people.
  • The person must make the request themselves. Nobody else is authorised to make the request, and the request cannot be made via an advance care directive.
  • Ordinarily, the minimum time frame between first request and opportunity to take the medication is ten days.
  • The person must maintain decisional capacity at all three requests.
  • Two doctors must reach independent assessments that the person qualifies.
  • Only doctors who have completed specialist training for voluntary assisted dying may participate.
  • Any healthcare worker may decline to participate for any reason, without penalty.
  • A prescription dispensed for the purpose of voluntary assisted dying must be kept in a locked box and any unused portion returned to the pharmacy after death.
  • The person must self-administer the medication. If the person is unable to do so, a doctor may administer. An independent witness is required if the doctor administers.
  • For an authority is established to receive assisted dying reports, to assess reports, and to refer unacceptable cases to disciplinary or prosecutorial authorities.
  • For Parliament to review summary reports; twice in the first two years and annually thereafter; a formal review at five years.

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