Voluntary Assisted Dying (VAD) has today become accessible to eligible Western Australians.
The historic and long-awaited legislation will give terminally ill people throughout the State the ability to choose the manner and timing of their death.
The landmark legislation, which was passed in December 2019, enables eligible people to request access to assisted dying through a medical practitioner from today.
To date, 37 practitioners throughout WA have been approved to train to administer voluntary assisted dying services and an additional 59 practitioners have so far requested to access the required training. It is expected that the number of approved practitioners will grow following the laws coming into effect.
Every eligible Western Australian who wants access to VAD can be assisted by the Statewide Care Navigator Service which is staffed by experienced health professionals.
The VAD process includes:
- a person can only request access to VAD themselves
- two medical eligible practitioners must independently assess the request
- a person must make three separate requests to access VAD to confirm their intent
- a person can change their mind at any time.
During the 18-month implementation period, services such as the Statewide Care Navigator Service, mandatory training for participating doctors and nurse practitioners, the Statewide Pharmacy Service and the Voluntary Assisted Dying Board were established.
The recently appointed board will have an advisory and monitoring function to ensure adherence to the legislation and report to the State Government as necessary on quality and safety improvements if required.
Strong safeguards are in place to ensure a person’s request for access is voluntary and they are not being pressured.
Patients must be informed of treatment and palliative care options, as well as the voluntary assisted dying process. There are 10 stringent steps in the voluntary assisted dying process.
Special attention has also been paid to ensuring equitable access for all Western Australians, regardless of where they live.
The WA Voluntary Assisted Dying Regional Access Support Scheme provides funds to support access to VAD services for regional and remote residents. Funds can support patients to travel to see a doctor or have a doctor travel to them.
Since 2019, the McGowan Government has committed an additional $90 million in palliative care funding, including expanding palliative care in regional areas. An additional 10 inpatient palliative care beds have been opened at Joondalup Health Campus.
As stated by Premier Mark McGowan:
“As the second only State Government to do this, I’m very proud of WA.
“We embarked on a monumental journey and delivered historical change by legalising Voluntary Assisted Dying in 2019.
“This will make a significant difference to so many people’s lives and their loved ones – giving them choice and relief.
“Each and every one of us has had an experience with someone we’ve known who has been through it or knows someone who has been up close to it.
“Throughout the course of bringing about the legislation, it was a difficult journey with many harrowing stories of painful and immeasurable deaths told.
“If there are people dying in agony and that intolerable suffering can be relieved, then people should be given that choice. We should show compassion and kindness.
“For Western Australia, the overwhelming response was that the time had come for our State. Many people feel strongly about the issue and if we were determined to pursue it, we could achieve it.
“Today marks the start of what we achieved together as a State. We ensured Voluntary Assisted Dying was compassionate, safe and that it was suitable to Western Australia’s unique situation and landscape.
“This is an historic moment for Western Australia, a culmination of the hard work of many people who have been involved in implementing Voluntary Assisted Dying over the past 18 months.”
As stated by Health Minister Roger Cook:
“Western Australians approaching the end of life are already provided with choices and high-quality care including advance care planning and palliative care, to minimise their suffering and maximise their quality of life.
“The commencement of Voluntary Assisted Dying gives eligible Western Australians an additional choice at the end of their lives.
“All people are entitled to genuine choices about their care, treatment and end of life, irrespective of where they live in Western Australia.
“The passage of this legislation through the Parliament was a significant achievement – it will deliver choice to those Western Australians who are dying and suffering in pain.
“There is overwhelming support in the community for these laws and a great deal of work has gone into ensuring that our system is safe and effective.
“I would like to thank the Implementation Leadership Team for their work over the past 18 months on overseeing the clinical guidance, medical protocols and training, and information for the community and health professionals.”