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Legal situation

In short

Victoria was the first Australian state to have a Voluntary Assisted Dying (VAD) law. The bill was approved in 2017 and came into effect in June 2019.  

Since that moment to the last day of 2020:

  • 581 people have been assessed for eligibility to access voluntary assisted dying
  • 465 permit applications have been made
  • 405 permits have been issued
  • 224 people have died from taking the prescribed medications.

(Source: VADRB_Report of operations 2020)

The VAD law with its 68 safeguards is known as the most safe and conservative VAD law in the world. This brought politicians to introduce an improvement bill in Parliament. Also doctors face problems with the accessibility of the law. While legislative change may resolve some of these concerns, most can be ameliorated by improving the processes and systems.

Victorian VAD Act 2017

To apply for VAD, the following criteria must be met:

Applicants must be:

  • Victorian residents ( have lived in Victoria for at least 12 months)
  • aged over 18
  • capable of making decisions in relation to voluntary assisted dying

The disease must be:

  • diagnosed by two doctors
  • advanced, progressive and will cause death
  • terminal
  • causing intolerable pain (suffering in a way that “cannot be relieved in a manner the person deems tolerable”)
  • expected to cause death within weeks or months, but not longer than six months or 12 months if the illness is a neurodegenerative condition like motor neurone disease

The legislation includes 68 “safeguards”, including new criminal offences to protect vulnerable people from abuse and coercion and a special board to review all cases. The laws also have safeguards to prevent terminally ill people being pressured into a decision:

  • Anyone who is the beneficiary of the person’s will cannot be among the two witnesses required to sign the application.
  • Authorities will not reveal the exact make-up of the drug prescribed under the Voluntary Assisted Dying Act. It will be dispensed by pharmacists at the Alfred Hospital, which was asked by the State Government to provide the service.

If these requirements are met, the patient will be able to obtain a lethal drug within 10 days of asking to die, following a three-step request process involving two independent medical assessments. The patient must administer the drug themselves, but a doctor could deliver the lethal dose in rare cases (when the patient is physically unable to administer the drug by himself).

Long political debate before voting on the bill

Despite concerns about the health of MPs and staff working extreme hours, the Parliament debated more than 24 hours. There was a standoff over whether to adjourn parliament to allow MPs to rest, with the supporters unwilling to do so as they wanted the bill to pass. At some point the debate was however postponed when Labor MP Daniel Mulino collapsed and was taken away in an ambulance

The Government’s leader in the Upper House, Gavin Jennings, had accused opponents of trying to string out debate “far beyond the terms of reasonable argument” to try to delay the bill’s passage through the Parliament. Opponents used the lengthy debate to challenge different elements of the bill, including access to the drug and what type of drug would be used for the lethal dose — something the Government is yet to reveal.

Right to Die Societies in Victoria

Dying with Dignity Victoria

PO Box 743
Kew, VIC
3101, Australia
Phone: 0491 718 632

Website: Dying With Dignity Victoria


Christians Supporting Choice for Voluntary Euthanasia

Villa 1, Hampton Mews, 4 Wills Place, Mittagong, NSW Australia 2575
tel + 61 2 4872 1448      Information Leaflet

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