On 1 July 2021 a voluntary assisted dying (VAD) scheme commenced in Western Australia.

WA is the second state to introduce a VAD regime.  Just over two years ago a VAD regime commenced in Victoria.

More VAD regimes are coming or being debated:

  • They are expected to commence in Tasmania in late 2022, and in South Australia in early 2023
  • Queensland’s Parliament is currently considering a VAD bill – if passed, a VAD regime would likely commence in early 2023
  • A further attempt to introduce a VAD regime in New South Wales has been foreshadowed over the coming months
  • The ACT and Northern Territory Governments are advocating for ability to consider enacting their own VAD regimes.

MIGA – dealing with the practical issues 
VAD is a complex issue, with a broad range of views on it across the healthcare professions and community.

As a stakeholder in medico-legal, regulatory and practical issues for professionals and the health system, MIGA takes no position on whether VAD is right or wrong.  We focus on the risk management and practical process issues that need to be taken into account and addressed.

MIGA advocates for:

  • Clarity of obligations on professionals
  • Broadly consistent VAD regimes where possible
  • Conscientious objection provisions consistent with those in healthcare
  • Appropriate protections for professionals and vulnerable persons
  • Comprehensive professional guidelines, education and training
  • An appropriate transition period before regime commencement.

Many of the issues raised by MIGA have been accounted for in VAD regimes, but a range of challenges remain, particularly inconsistencies between regimes across the country.  For example, MIGA is advocating before a Queensland Parliamentary inquiry for professionals to receive the same protections in disciplinary processes which are in place under other VAD regimes.

VAD in Western Australia – how is it different? 
The new Western Australian VAD regime differs somewhat from the Victorian one, including:

  • VAD can be raised with a patient when discussing end of life options (including potential treatments and palliative care)
  • If a patient seeks to involve a professional in VAD process, but they object to being involved, certain information must be given to the patient
  • Notifications are required to an oversight board, but permits are not used
  • Differing qualification / experience requirements for assessing doctors
  • Broader scope for professionals to be involved in administration of the VAD substance.

Things to think about… 
It is important that those considering involvement with VAD, or who may be approached by patients about it, understand what it involves and what obligations they may have.

The WA Health Department has produced a range of resources, including guidelines, FAQs and profession-specific material.  These are available at https://ww2.health.wa.gov.au/Articles/U_Z/Voluntary-assisted-dying/Resources-for-health-professionals

Key matters to consider include:

  • How you will respond to patients requesting VAD, whatever your willingness and ability to be involved
  • If involved in VAD processes, the need for you to take the time to understand fully the regime requirements, undertake the mandated training and determine whether you can put appropriate procedures in place
  • MIGA expects those overseeing the regime will interpret its requirements strictly
  • The potential emotional and other personal impact involvement may have on you.

If you have questions, please don’t hesitate to call MIGA’s Legal Services Department on 1800 839 284.

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