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 10 December 2019 the Bill completed passage through Parliament and received Royal Assent on 19 December 2019.

Part 1 of the Act (other than divisions 2 to 4) commenced on Royal Assent and the rest of the Act will commence upon proclamation which is scheduled for mid-2021.

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?

The Department of Health has established an Implementation Leadership Team to provide expert advice to the Department as well as overseeing, co-ordinating and facilitating the work required to prepare for voluntary assisted dying in Western Australia.

The Implementation Leadership Team will work closely with key stakeholders to ensure that voluntary assisted dying is implemented safely and appropriately within the context of existing care options available to people at the end of life.

Implementation Leadership Team Membership

Dr Scott Blackwell (Chairperson)

Dr Scott Blackwell is a General Practitioner with expertise in palliative and aged care. He is a former President of the Australian Medical Association (WA Branch) and a life member of the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners. Dr Blackwell was a member of the Ministerial Expert Panel on Voluntary Assisted Dying.

Ms Noreen Fynn (Deputy Chairperson)

Ms Noreen Fynn is a consumer representative with considerable experience in Western Australia in the carer, disability, aged care and mental health sectors. She has worked extensively with community and government organisations at both the state and federal level. She was previously a member of the Ministerial Expert Panel on Voluntary Assisted Dying.

Dr Elissa Campbell

Dr Elissa Campbell is a consultant geriatrician, palliative care specialist and the current President of Palliative Care WA. Dr Campbell was a member of the Ministerial Expert Panel on Voluntary Assisted Dying.

Ms Amanda Collins-Clinch

Ms Amanda Collins-Clinch is a Yamatji woman from the Badimaya and Amangu peoples of Western Australia. Currently she works at the Aboriginal Health Council of Western Australia (AHCWA) as the Executive Manager of Workforce and Health Programs. Ms Collins-Clinch was previously the Deputy CEO of the Aboriginal Health Council of South Australia. Ms Collins-Clinch is representing AHCWA on the Implementation Leadership Team.

Ms Margaret Denton

Ms Margaret Denton is the Chief Operating Officer of the WA Country Health Service. Her extensive experience in rural WA includes senior executive operational roles in aged and community care, population and Aboriginal health and acute services and clinical service provision as an Occupational Therapist.

Ms Stephanie Dowden

Ms Stephanie Dowden is the Director of NursePrac Australia, a company providing Nurse Practitioner-led health care for children and young people. As a nurse practitioner herself, Stephanie’s focus has been palliative care and pain management for children and young people. She is a past President of Palliative Care WA and has provided advice to related committees in WA and internationally. She is currently the Chair of the WA Chapter of Australian College of Nurse Practitioners and a National Board Member of the Australian College of Nurse Practitioners.

Assoc Prof Chris Etherton-Beer

Associate Professor Christopher Etherton-Beer is a Geriatric Medicine Physician and Clinical Pharmacologist. He is an Associate Professor in Geriatric Medicine at UWA, a medical Co-Director at the Royal Perth Bentley Group, chair of the WA Therapeutics Advisory Group and a member of the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee. He is also a current member of the North Metropolitan Health Service Board, until 30 June 2020.

Mrs Chris Kane

Mrs Chris Kane is the General Manager, Strategy and Engagement for the WA Primary Health Alliance (WAPHA). She is a Board member of the Australian Hospitals and Healthcare Association, the Primary Care Curriculum Committee (Curtin Medical School) and a Primary Care Advisory Committee member of the Australian Commission on Safety Quality. Mrs Kane is representing WAPHA on the Implementation Leadership Team.

Dr Andrew Miller

Dr Andrew Miller is a Specialist Anaesthetist and is the current President of WA Branch of the Australian Medical Association. Dr Miller is representing the Australian Medical Association (WA Branch) on the Implementation Leadership Team.

Hon Dr Sally Talbot

Hon Dr Sally Talbot, MLC is a Member of the WA Parliament representing the South West Region having been elected to Parliament in 2005. Hon Dr Talbot has served on many Parliamentary Committees including as a member of the Parliamentary Joint Select Committee on End of Life Choices which ran from Aug 2017 until Aug 2018.

Dr Peter Wallace

Dr Peter Wallace was a rural proceduralist General Practitioner in WA for 45 years prior to his retirement. This included involvement in both inpatient, at Murray District Hospital, and outpatient palliative care for 15 years. He was also a member of the Medical Board of Australia, spending the 10 years until 2018 as Chair of the Notifications Committee. Dr Wallace is representing the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners on the Implementation Leadership Team.  

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: 03-04-2020
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