After almost three years of research, a cross-party parliamentary inquiry, an expert ministerial advisory panel, and countless public submissions, consultations and forums, the Western Australian government passed the WA Voluntary Assisted Dying Act (2019) in December 2019. You can read its full text here.
The law will offer 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 Motor Neurone Disease or MS, the time frame is extended to twelve months. It will come into effect on 1 July 2021, after an 18-month implementation period.
How we got here
In November 2018, Premier Mark McGowan called for government legislation on Voluntary Assisted Dying to be drafted. This was a result of the recommendation of a year-long WA cross-party inquiry into end-of-life choices outlined in the report 'My Life, My Choice'.
Shortly after this report was published, WA Health Minister Roger Cook appointed an Expert Ministerial Advisory Panel to advise on the technical aspects of Voluntary Assisted Dying legislation and design a workable scheme with strong safeguards and protections
The panel consisted of 13 medical, legal and consumer experts and was chaired by former WA Governor, Malcolm McCusker QC, AC.
The panel conducted extensive community consultations, and in June 2019 released its Final Report which laid the foundations for the framing of the WA Voluntary Assisted Dying Bill (2019).
Read the facts about how Voluntary Assisted dying laws work.
How the law will work
The WA Act is closely modelled on the Victorian Voluntary Assisted Dying Act (2017) which came into effect in Victoria on 19 June 2019.
Key points of the WA law are:
- The person must be 18 years or over; and
- Be a resident of Western Australia 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.
- To access the regime, a person has to make two verbal requests and one written request.
- Those requests have to be signed off by two doctors who are independent of each other.
- There will be a minimum of nine days between the initial request and final approval.
- The choice of lethal medication is a clinical decision from an approved list of drugs.
- Self-administration would be the preferred method, but in a departure from the Victorian regime, a person can choose for a medical practitioner to administer the drug.
- In another departure from Victoria, doctors and other healthcare workers are permitted to raise the option of assisted dying with their patients.
- 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.
- The person must maintain decision-making capacity at all three requests.
- Participating doctors must complete training for voluntary assisted dying.
- Any healthcare worker may decline to participate for any reason, without penalty.
- A Review Board will be established to receive assisted dying reports, to assess reports, and to refer unacceptable cases to disciplinary or prosecutorial authorities.
- Parliament will periodically review the law and summary reports.
Read more about the Voluntary Assisted Dying legislation at the WA Department of Health.
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