The Victorian Government today announced it will legalise assisted dying, in line with the recommendations set out in the Inquiry into end of life choices report tabled in Parliament in June this year. The report recommended legalising assisted dying for Australian citizens or permanent residents over the age of 18 who are ordinarily resident in Victoria. Under the recommendations, assistance would be available to individuals at the end stages of their life who experience unbearable suffering caused by serious and incurable conditions. Suffering from a mental illness would not satisfy the eligibility criteria. Doctors would not be forced to provide such assistance if they held conscientious objections. Recommended safeguards included that the request for assistance:
- must be voluntary and free from coercion;
- must come from the patient;
- must be given three times - including in writing - and approved at least two doctors.
The Government will establish a Ministerial Advisory Panel comprised of clinical, legal, health administrator and palliative care experts to assist in drafting a safe and compassionate legislative framework. The Panel is expected to release a discussion paper in early 2017, with stakeholder consultations to follow. We welcome efforts to ensure that patients are empowered to make choices about their health care, including at the end stages of their lives. Those of us who come into contact with people experiencing end of life care know too well that the end of someone's life is a stressful time for patients, their family and their carers. There is often a lack of clarity among health practitioners and family members alike around the legal framework applicable to end of life treatment. Poor medical advice or treatment at the end of someone's life takes a significant physical and emotional toll. When legislation is introduced, we would hope to see it provide a clear decision making framework centred around the patient's wishes, while also providing sufficient protection to vulnerable Victorians. Once drafted, the legislation will be put to a conscience vote in the Parliament. If you or someone you know has developed a mental health injury/psychiatric illness due to stress related to end of life treatment, we invite you to make contact with one of our expert injury lawyers on (03) 9321 9988.