Voluntary assisted dying update
Statement from the Voluntary Assisted Dying Commission
Voluntary Assisted Dying (VAD) has now been available in Tasmania for more than four months through the End-of-Life Choices (Voluntary Assisted Dying Act 2021). The Act is continuing to operate as intended and the safeguards applied through the legislation are working.
Under the Act, a person may access voluntary assisted dying in Tasmania if they meet all the eligibility criteria. The VAD process usually takes several weeks and involves a number of steps, including appropriate consultation with at least two different medical practitioners.
In the first four months of operation, 24 formal first requests from individuals to access voluntary assisted dying in Tasmania were made. Of those requests, 11 progressed to the point where medical practitioners were given authorisation to access the VAD substance for the individual.
For several reasons, not all individuals who make a formal first request, or whose medical practitioner is given authorisation to access the VAD substance, proceed to the final stage of the VAD process. The Commission is aware of at least five people who have died through the VAD process since the Act’s commencement.
Access to voluntary assisted dying depends on the participation of eligible, willing, and trained practitioners. The uptake of training has been positive, and in the Act’s first four months, more than 50 practitioners completed the VAD training. This number includes 23 medical practitioners and 21 registered nurses.
Of the 23 medical practitioners who completed the training, 16 indicated they were willing to be Primary Medical Practitioners and/or Consulting Medical Practitioners. Of the 21 registered nurses, 15 indicated that they were willing to be Administering Health Practitioners.
While these figures are positive, Tasmania is a small jurisdiction with relatively small numbers of medical practitioners overall. Completing the training does not oblige a practitioner to assist with voluntary assisted dying, and it is their choice on every occasion.
The experiences of other Australian states that offer VAD is that the number of trained practitioners will be low initially but increase over time. The experiences of other states also suggest that more willing and trained practitioners to participate in the VAD process will always be required. The training is available free of charge for medical practitioners and registered nurses, and we would encourage any practitioner wishing to access the VAD training to call 1800 568 956 or email [email protected].
It is important to note that under the auspices of the VAD Commission, support is available to Tasmanians wishing to request access to VAD, and for practitioners who are interested in undertaking the training.
A person who wishes to access VAD in Tasmania should first have a conversation with their medical practitioner. If their medical practitioner is unable to assist them, they can contact the VAD Navigation Service by calling 1800 568 956 or by emailing [email protected].
The Navigation Service provides individualised, coordinated and collaborative support for people wishing to access or be involved with voluntary assisted dying. The Navigation Service can also help to connect a person who wishes to access voluntary assisted dying with appropriate medical practitioners and health services.
Under the Act, the Voluntary Assisted Dying Commission is required to produce an annual report on the operation of VAD in Tasmania, which will be tabled in Parliament.