Voluntary Assisted Dying Act comes into effect on 19 June 2019

Tuesday June 11, 2019

Voluntary Assisted Dying Act comes into effect on 19 June 2019

Terminally ill Victorians will soon be able to end their lives with medical help as the state becomes the first to legalise voluntary assisted dying this month.

The Voluntary Assisted Dying Act 2017 (Vic), which comes into effect on June 19, allows someone with a terminal disease or condition who is experiencing intolerable suffering to access prescribed medication that will end their life.

Who can apply?

Only people who meet strict eligibility criteria will be able to access the scheme.

They must be over 18 and have decision making capacity. They must also be experiencing an illness, disease or medical condition that:

  • is incurable;
  • is progressive;
  • they consider to be intolerable; and
  • is expected to cause death within six months or 12 months for neurodegenerative conditions.

The person must be:

  • an Australian citizen or permanent resident, and
  • have been living in Victoria for at least a year.

How does it work?

Anyone wanting to access voluntary assisted dying must first ask a suitably qualified doctor. In a bid to ensure the scheme is a voluntary one, the Act does not permit anyone else to make this request on another person's behalf.

The doctor, who is known as the "coordinating medical practitioner", must then conduct an assessment of the person to determine if they are eligible.  If the doctor determines the person meets the eligibility requirements, they must refer them to a second medical practitioner for another assessment.  

Both doctors must ensure the person:

  • is making a fully informed decision;
  • is aware of palliative care alternatives; and
  • is aware that they may discontinue the assisted dying process at any stage.

If assessed as eligible by the second doctor, the person must make a written declaration confirming the voluntary and enduring nature of their request to access voluntary assisted dying. Two witnesses must sign the document in front of the coordinating medical practitioner.

A person must then make a final request to access the scheme.

After undertaking a final review to ensure the process has been complied with, the coordinating medical practitioner may then apply for a permit that will enable the person to administer the substance that will end their life. If the person is physically unable to administer the medication themselves, the doctor may apply for a medical practitioner administration permit. 

Both doctors involved in the process must be either specialists or vocationally registered general practitioners and have undertaken training in the area. Other requirements include that one of the practitioners must have the relevant expertise in the person's disease, illness or medical condition.  No doctor is obliged to take part in the process.

The Act requires the doctors to provide reports relating to each stage of the process to the Voluntary Assisted Dying Review Board which is responsible for oversight of the operation of the legislation.