Voluntary assisted dying

  • Voluntary assisted dying involves a process to access medication and to enable a person to legally choose the manner and timing of their death.
  • Put simply, voluntary assisted dying means that some adults could ask for medical help to end their life if they have a disease or illness that is so severe it is going to cause their death and they are suffering badly.
  • The term 'voluntary assisted dying' emphasises the voluntary nature of the choice of the person and their enduring capacity to make this decision.

Voluntary Assisted Dying legislation

In August 2019 the Voluntary Assisted Dying Bill 2019 was introduced into the Western Australian Parliament.

On 10th December 2019 the Bill was passed and will be enacted upon Royal Assent.

Following Royal Assent there will be an 18 month implementation period led by the Department of Health.

Voluntary Assisted Dying Act 2019 (external site)

Voluntary Assisted Dying in Western Australia

Note: this is a summary only, for full details and requirements please refer to the Voluntary Assisted Dying Act 2019 (external site). Commencement is expected in mid-2021.

To be eligible for voluntary assisted dying, the person must meet all of the eligibility criteria. This includes that they:

  • are aged 18 years or over
  • are an Australian citizen or permanent resident who has been ordinarily resident in Western Australia for at least 12 months
  • have been diagnosed with at least 1 disease, illness or medical condition that is advanced, progressive and will cause death; and, will, on the balance of probabilities cause death within a period of 6 months (or 12 months for neurodegenerative); and, is causing suffering that cannot be relieved in a manner that the person considers tolerable
  • must have decision-making capacity in relation to voluntary assisted dying
  • must be acting voluntarily and without coercion
  • must have an enduring request for access to voluntary assisted dying

To access voluntary assisted dying a person must be independently assessed as eligible by two medical practitioners. These medical practitioners must meet certain requirements and have undergone mandatory training. They may also refer the person for additional assessments if required.

During the process the person must make three separate requests for voluntary assisted dying: a first request, a written declaration and a final request. The written declaration must be witnessed by two people (who meet specific requirements).

Voluntary assisted dying may be through self-administration or practitioner administration of the voluntary assisted dying substance – this is a decision made in consultation with the co-ordinating medical practitioner. If self-administration, the person must appoint a Contact Person who has specific responsibilities, including return of any unused substance. If practitioner administration this may be done by a medical practitioner or by a nurse practitioner (who meet specific requirements).

The death certificate must not include any reference to voluntary assisted dying.

Throughout the process the person must be informed of many different aspects relating to voluntary assisted dying, as well as their treatment and palliative care options.

Fundamental to the process is that it remains voluntary and free from coercion. The person can withdraw or revoke their involvement at any stage.

Health practitioners are also able to refuse to participate in voluntary assisted dying for any reason (including conscientious objection).

Health care workers must not initiate discussion about, or suggest, voluntary assisted dying to a person to whom they are providing health or professional care services. The exception to this is for medical practitioners or nurse practitioners if, at the same time, they also inform the person about treatment and palliative care options available to them and the likely outcomes of that care and treatment.

What happens next?

Implementation will require careful and detailed planning, further consultation and development so that voluntary assisted dying is undertaken safely and in accordance with the legislation.

The Voluntary Assisted Dying Board will need to be established for oversight and to ensure strict adherence to the laws.

A service delivery framework and clinical guidelines will be developed as well as undertaking training of health practitioners and providing education to the wider community.

The Department of Health will provide updates as this work progresses.

Why was this considered for Western Australia?
  • In 2017 a Joint Select Committee on End of Life Choices (the Committee) was established by the Parliament of Western Australia.
  • The Committee undertook an Inquiry into the need for laws in Western Australia (WA) to allow citizens to make informed decisions regarding their own end-of-life choices.
  • The Committee handed down its report My Life, My Choice (the Report) to both Houses of Parliament on 23 August 2018 which outlined 52 findings and made 24 recommendations in relation to end-of-life choices.
  • Unnecessary suffering at end of life, and broad community agreement regarding individual autonomy, formed the basis for the Committee’s recommendation that the Western Australian Government draft and introduce a Bill for Voluntary Assisted Dying.
  • The WA Government considered its response to the Committee's report and instructed the Department of Health and the Department of Justice to implement the Committee’s recommendations relating to VAD, including developing legislation.
Consultation
  • Consultation has now ended.
  • During March, April and May this year the Ministerial Expert Panel consulted widely.
  • The Discussion Paper aimed to promote discussion and generate suggestions at the metropolitan and regional consultations conducted by the Panel.
  • The experience, knowledge and insights of the community and of experts on particular issues, will help in the development of fully informed and workable legislation, to ensure safe and compassionate processes for voluntary assisted dying.
  • Throughout the consultation period, the Panel listened carefully and respectfully to differing views, comments and suggestions.
  • Feedback provided helped to inform the Panel's final report and recommendations to the Minister for Health.
  • Submissions received by the Panel will be published on this website unless the individual / submitter requested that their submission is not made public.
Ministerial Expert Panel

The Ministerial Expert Panel was established to provide expert advice on the development of voluntary assisted dying legislation.

All information relating to the members, panel updates and related publications can be found on the Ministerial Expert Panel page.

Resources

The final report, discussion paper and related documents are available in alternative formats below.

Discussion Paper audio files

The Discussion Paper Fact sheet is available in alternative languages on the Ministerial Expert Panel page.

Videos

Related links

If reading this information on voluntary assisted dying has raised distressing issues for you the following helplines can be contacted for support:

LifeLine WA 13 11 14 (available 24/7) or online chat www.lifelinewa.org.au 
The Suicide Call Back Service 1300 659 467 (available 24/7) or online chat www.suicidecallbackservice.org.au

Last reviewed: 11-12-2019
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Health Networks