Wednesday June 19 marks the first day that a select number of qualifying Victorians may choose to end their life with the assistance of a doctor.
This landmark health and legal development is the result of years of research and consultation with a range of people in the community and various health and rights groups and organisations.
The new law allows people who are already at the end of their lives who have an advanced, progressive and incurable illness to ask a doctor for medication that will assist them to end their life at a time of their choosing.
The right of choice
Tricia Malowney, a disability rights advocate who is hitting her stride in her mid-60s, is a passionate voice for providing people with equitable access to those choices at the end of their lives.
Tricia was part of the Victorian Ministerial Advisory Panel on Voluntary Assisted Dying, and has since worked on the Voluntary Assisted Dying Implementation Taskforce to work through the practicalities of putting the laws into action.
She has been intimately involved with the development of the new legislation.
‘This legislation allows people to have a choice about their end-of-life care. It puts the decision-making process back into people’s own hands,’ Tricia says.
Few may qualify
Tricia is quick to emphasise that the new legislation will only affect a very small number of people.
She says that for most of us, Victoria’s excellent palliative care and end-of-life services will be more than enough to meet our needs in our final months and weeks.
The law states that people can only access voluntary assisted dying if they meet all of the following conditions:
1. They must have an advanced disease that will cause their death and that is:
- likely to cause their death within six months (or within 12 months for neurodegenerative diseases like motor neurone disease) and
- causing the person suffering that is unacceptable to them.
2. They must have the ability to make and communicate a decision about voluntary assisted dying throughout the formal request process.
3. They must also:
- be an adult 18 years or over; and
- have been living in Victoria for at least 12 months; and
- be an Australian citizen or permanent resident.
Look out for the full story on Voluntary Assisted Dying in our upcoming Seniors Card Magazine due out in September.
In the meantime you can find out more at the Better Health Channel.