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Queensland joins five other states after legalising voluntary assisted dying

Voluntary assisted dying (VAD) has been legalised in Queensland following a majority Parliament vote on Thursday.

Queensland has become the fifth Australian state to legalise VAD.

The law will take some time to come into actual effect, with instigation not set to be available until January 1 2023.

Image: Canberra Times

So who is eligible? 

To utilise the VAD process an individual must meet a list of very specific criteria.

A person must:

  • be 18 or older;
  • meet the residency requirements;
  • be able to make decisions voluntarily without coercion;
  • be in their “right mind” to make such decisions – meaning that people with dementia can not access VAD;
  • have a disease, illness or condition that is both progressive and advanced;
  • be suffering to an intolerable degree; and
  • be expected to pass within 12 months.

The 12-month timeframe is significant, given every other state has instated a shorter 6 months period, with 12 months applying solely for neurogenerative diseases.

Queensland Premier Ananastasia Palaszczuk wrote to Scott Morrison in May, requesting urgent action be taken in amending the Commonwealth VAD legislation.

This amendment would allow practitioners to provide access to VAD to rural and remote Queenslanders through telehealth.

Voluntary Assisted Dying
Image: New Indian Express

What steps must be taken? 

To utilise VAD a number of steps are taken.

The suffering individual must complete three documents requests.

The first is made to a medical practitioner and must be “clear and unambiguous”. It must also be made by the person and not through a third party.

The doctor can choose to accept or refuse the request and subsequently provide the patient with information. It is then their decision to become the coordinating practitioner or decline involvement.

The next step is referred to as the “first assessment”. The doctor must have completed special VAD training and assess the patient’s eligibility to access the scheme.

If deemed eligible the patient is referred to another doctor for a second assessment. If this is also satisfactory, the individual can make their “second request”.

The second request is made in written form and must be witnessed by two eligible individuals.

The third and final request is made to the coordinating practitioner and must be submitted at least nine days after the first request was made.

Voluntary assisted dying

A complete review of the stages is then completed by the coordinating doctor. They must certify that the person is acting both voluntarily and without coercion and is of decision-making capacity.

That review is provided to the VAD advisory board within 48 hours. The advisory board is one of the many safeguards in place to regulate the new VAD legislation,

The individual can withdraw their wishes to access VAD at any stage and void the process. It is also stated to the individual multiple times that they can make the decision to stop the process.

The final step, once again made in consultation with the coordinating practitioner, is deciding who will administer the substance. The individual can either self-administer or have the administering practitioner do so.

The step forward in Qld legislation will provide welcomed relief to those experiencing debilitating suffering.