On 29 November 2017, the Victorian Parliament passed the Voluntary Assisted Dying Bill after a comprehensive, historic and passionate debate in both lower and upper houses.
The Bill was consistent with the safeguards recommended by the Ministerial Advisory Panel (the Panel) which was established to provide advice on the practical and clinical implications of the Bill.
The Act came into force on 19 June 2019, Victorians who are at the end of life and who meet strict eligibility criteria under the Act can now request access to voluntary assisted dying.
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I've had a number of patients whom I know, who've taken their own lives with drugs that I've prescribed, and I feel very bad about that because they had to do it in private without letting me know, and often without letting their families know because it was illegal.
And if it can be legalised, then those few people who can't be looked after well enough or don't feel that they want to be looked after like this, they will have a better access to something they really want - and it's very much in the opportunity of giving people the chance to have control.
I've looked after many patients who've died at home, and to see the patient die in the centre of the family concerned and the family familiar surroundings and go through it with them is a lovely experience very often. People sometimes say 'this is the most powerful experience I've ever been through, to take mum through this final course'. And I think most people who access voluntary assisted dying would prefer to do it at home. Some will say 'no I don't want the family to be involved, I'd rather do it somewhere else', but I think that most people will want to choose where they die and will want to choose a familiar environment where they feel that same sense of control.
There's been quite a lot discomfort in palliative care about the whole question of assisted dying, and there are many reasons for that, and I wanted to be sure that palliative care felt more comfortable with the process and was willing to be involved with looking after people while they were going through a process of accessing voluntary assisted dying.
I don't think it will change palliative care very much. Most palliative care practitioners will not want to be part of voluntary assisted dying. But it's most important that they continue to do what they've always done with great care and compassion, and make sure that when people do go that way, when people do access voluntary assisted dying - they still have opportunity to see palliative care support with them, right through to the end.
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I'm Brian Owler, and I'm the chair of the Victorian Government's expert Ministerial Advisory Panel into Voluntary Assisted Dying.
Today, we've released our final report, which sets out a roadmap for a safe and compassionate voluntary assisted dying framework.
Today's report represents the culmination of our work over the past seven months. It builds on the Legal and Social Issues Parliamentary Committee's report, Inquiry into End of Life Choices.
Our work is part of broader end of life reforms including enhancements to palliative care services in Victoria and advance care directives.
The framework we are proposing provides a compassionate response for people who are dying and suffering, to choose the timing and manner of their death.
It is a conservative framework, that will ensure only those who are at the end of their lives are able to access Voluntary Assisted Dying.
In order to access Voluntary Assisted Dying a person must be diagnosed with an incurable disease, illness or medical condition that is advanced, progressive and will cause death.
Their condition must be expected to cause death within weeks or months - but no longer than 12 months - and it must be causing them suffering that cannot be relieved in a manner that the person deems tolerable.
In addition, only people who have decision-making capacity will be eligible. People must make the request and the decision for themselves and have capacity throughout the entire process.
They also must be over the age of 18 and they must live in Victoria.
This is a voluntary scheme, which means that the request must be initiated by the person themselves and cannot be made on their behalf or suggested to them by a health practitioner.
The person will need to be deemed eligible by two medical practitioners who have made independent assessments of the person.
The framework requires a person to make three requests, including a written request signed by independent witnesses, over a period of at least 10 days.
The framework contains 68 safeguards that will ensure that every request is voluntary.
The community can be assured that the process is safe and only those who are at the end of their lives will have access.
I am proud to present our report to the Government today and the Panel welcomes a respectful and robust debate about its recommendations.
Reviewed 19 October 2023