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Voluntary assisted dying: What you should know

Victoria will become the first state to offer legal euthanasia when assisted dying laws come into effect on June 19.

The first person to end their life via assisted dying is expected to be able to do so in three weeks.

Julian Gardner, Chair of the Voluntary Assisted Dying Implementation Taskforce, explained how the process will work for those seeking to access euthanasia.

“You would talk to your doctor … and ask for information about voluntary assisted dying,” he told 3AW’s Neil Mitchell.

“If you want to see whether you’re eligible you ask the doctor to assess you, and if that doctor is willing and qualified there are a large list of eligibility criteria.”

If a person is found eligible they are then assessed by a second doctor, who does the same assessment independently.

If both doctors find a person eligible for euthanasia, the applicant must make a written request, followed by a verbal request.

There must be at least ten days from the beginning of the process to the third request.

The doctor may then apply for a permit to issue the lethal prescription.

In order to qualify for assisted dying a person must be:

  • Aged 18 or older
  • A Victorian resident for at least 12 months
  • An Australian citizen
  • Have the capacity to make the decision
  • Have a disease, illness or medical condition which is incurable, progressive and will cause death within six months (or within twelve months in the case of a neurodegenerative condition)
  • Be suffering in a manner which cannot be relieved in a tolerable manner

Mr Gardner said there will be some initial access issues for people seeking access to euthanasia.

“The experience from Canada suggests that in the first twelve months there will be some patients that have some difficulty finding a doctor,” he said.

“We do have two care navigators who, as part of their role, help people who can’t find somebody who is willing and qualified.”

Currently, 90 doctors have registered for training which authorises them to complete euthanasia assessments.

Mr Gardner said he’s confident legal assisted dying will provide comfort for many.

“We shouldn’t judge this solely by the people who take the medication,” he said.

“There will be many benefits for people who, simply by raising it with their doctor, have a conversation and the doctor says ‘well, what’s causing your suffering?’

“For those people who want one more choice in their end of life care, it’s invaluable.”

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