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South Australia

Legal situation

In short

On June 24, 2021, South Australia became the 4th Australian state to pass a VAD law. The bill received Royal Assent on August 24, 2021. The Health Minister stated that VAD commencement may be delayed until March 2023, 21 months after the legislation was passed. VAD campaigners continued to lobby to bring commencement forward.

Political process

On June 24, 2021, South Australia became the 4th Australian state to pass a VAD law. The bill received Royal Assent on August 24, 2021. After some delay an implementation process was established in December 2021. This includes a Task Force and five different Working Groups covering areas such as Care Pathways, Community Information, Clinical Guidelines, Education and Training, Pharmacy Protocol. 

In June 2021, it was anticipated that voluntary assisted dying would be available in South Australia by mid to late 2022. However, during a public meeting on Sunday November 14 2021 at the Goodwood Community Centre, Health and Wellbeing Minister Hon Stephen Wade, MLC, explained that the VAD Act is not expected to come into operation until March 2023, 21 months after the legislation was passed. The new Government elected in March 2022 has advised that commencement will be brought forward.

South Australian VAD Act 2020

The bill was largely modelled on the law in Victoria. 

  • Only those with an advanced disease likely to cause death within six months – or 12 months for neurodegenerative diseases – are eligible to be part of the process.
  • It is also only open to those older than 18 who have been living in the state for at least a year and are a permanent resident of Australia. 
  • As in Victoria, there must be two doctors making independent assessments of any requests for voluntary assisted dying. 
  • Likewise, as per other states, no health practitioner or healthcare provider is obliged to take part in the voluntary assisted dying process in South Australia and conscientious objectors are legally protected.
  • It is illegal for a doctor to mention VAD in an end of life treatment plan; however if a patient mentions VAD, the doctor can then discuss it. 

This is the first piece of Australian VAD legislation to explicitly extend the right of conscientious objection beyond individuals to institutions. In SA, private hospitals will be able to exercise the right but residential aged care facilities will not. This ensures faith-based aged care providers will not be able to stop an eligible person accessing VAD in a residential aged care facility. States which debated VAD after South Australia contain similar provisions in their legislation (Queensland and NSW.)

Right to Die Societies in South Australia

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