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Understanding South Australia's Voluntary Assisted Dying Law

South Australia has made a significant reform by legalising voluntary assisted dying, a new end-of-life choice for terminally ill individuals. Under strict eligibility requirements, this reform allows eligible South Australians to access and self-administer medication that will cause their death voluntarily. However, those with life-limiting illnesses must understand the new changes, the process involved, and their rights.

In this blog, we will provide an overview of the eligibility requirements, decision-making capacity, voluntariness, and the process of accessing voluntary assisted dying. It is essential to have a general understanding of the process, whether for yourself, a close family member, or a friend who may decide to access voluntary assisted dying.


South Australia's Voluntary Assisted Dying Law

What is Voluntary Assisted Dying?

Voluntary Assisted Dying allows eligible South Australians to voluntarily access and self-administer (or in some circumstances have a medical practitioner administer) medication that will cause their death.


What are the Eligibility Requirements?

You can only access voluntary assisted dying if you are assessed by a registered medical practitioner as being:

  • 18 years old or older;

  • An Australian citizen or permanent resident;

  • Living in South Australia and have lived in South Australia for at least 12 months;

  • Assessed as having decision-making capacity;

  • Acting freely without coercion;

  • Diagnosed with a disease, illness or medical condition that is: o Incurable; o Advanced and Progressive; o Expected to cause death within 6 months, or 12 months if you have a neurodegenerative disease; and is o Causing you suffering that cannot be relieved in a manner that you consider tolerable.

Decision-making capacity:

A registered medical practitioner must assess that you have the capacity to make the decision relating to voluntary assisted dying. This means that you can understand the information relevant to voluntary assisted dying, retain the information to the extent necessary to make the decision, use or weigh information as part of the process, and communicate your decision, views and needs.


Voluntariness

A decision to access voluntary assisted dying must be made voluntarily. As such, you should not be pressured or threatened to make this decision.


Can I plan for Voluntary Assisted Dying?

While planning for you future through an Advanced Care Directive can help reduce stress, voluntary assisted dying can only be accessed when you have decision-making capacity. This means that a substitute decision-maker cannot make the decision for you.


How do I request Voluntary Assisted Dying?

If you are considering this option, you may wish to first ask your doctor for information regarding the process, that way you can make an informed decision moving forward.


It is important to keep in mind two requirements under the legislation:

1. Only you can start a conversation with your doctor about voluntary assisted dying; and

2. A medical practitioner is prevented from suggesting voluntary assisted dying to you.

You should also consider that all medical practitioners have the right to express their personal values. Not all medical practitioners will agree with voluntary assisted dying and may choose not to discuss it with you. If your doctor does not support voluntary assisted dying, they should refer you to another health practitioner you can talk to.


The process:

1. The first step is to make a clear and unambiguous ‘first request’ to your doctor. If your doctor does not object to voluntary assisted dying, they will become the ‘coordinating doctor’ for the process.

2. The coordinating doctor will complete a first assessment to ensure you are eligible. You will then be referred to a second doctor, known as a ‘consulting doctor’ if you are eligible, who will complete a second assessment.

3. Next, you will be required to make a second request in the form of a written declaration.

4. You must then make a third and final request to your doctor, at least 9 calendar days after your first request (unless your death is likely to occur before the expiry of 9 days).

5. Your doctor will then give you a form to appoint a Contact Person, who is responsible for returning any unused or remaining voluntary assisted dying substance.

6. On receipt of a final request, the coordinating medical practitioner will complete a final review ensuring all requirements under the legislation have been complied with.

7. A dying permit will then be issued, either for self-administration or practitioner administration of the substance. Your doctor will discuss how to organise delivery of the medication, how to administer it, and any other questions you may have.

8. Once all of the above is complete, it is your decision to take the voluntary assisted dying substance. You are not required to take the medication, and you have no obligation to continue with the process at any stage.

As can be seen, the process provides various safeguards to ensure voluntary assisted dying is administered appropriately. This reform presents an additional choice to those with a life-limiting illnesses which has been advocated for over many years in South Australia. It is important to have a general understanding of the process, whether it be you or a close family member or friend who decides to access voluntary assisted dying.


Want to find out more?

Take control of your end-of-life decisions and ensure that your estate planning documents are prepared in accordance with your wishes. Our team at CPC Lawyers is here to assist you with any queries you may have regarding the Voluntary Assisted Dying Act 2021 (SA). Contact us now and let us help you navigate this complex legal landscape.


Call: (08) 7325 0219 E-mail: info@cpclawyers.com.au

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