In November 2017, Victoria’s state parliament passed legislation that made euthanasia legal.
More than 18 months after it was voted in, the law finally comes into effect on 19 June, meaning Victorians will be able to end their lives via assisted dying – though there are stringent criteria and 68 safeguards. Victorian Health Minister Jenny Mikakos has described the Bill as the safest and most conservative set of euthanasia laws in the world.
Victoria is currently the only Australian state where assisted dying is legal.
In 2016, Andrew Denton spoke to Mia Freedman about his desire to change Australian law around euthanasia. Post continues below video.
Here’s everything you need to know about the new law.
What is the criteria for euthanasia in Victoria under this new law?
The criteria is very stringent.
In order to quality for assisted dying in Victoria, a gravely ill person must fit the following criteria:
- Aged 18 or older
- A Victorian resident for at least 12 months
- An Australian citizen
- Have the capacity to make the decision themselves
- Have independently made the decision at the time of being unwell – patients cannot pre-plan voluntary euthanasia or request it if suffering from dementia
- Have an incurable disease, illness or medical condition that causes “suffering to the person that cannot be relieved in a manner that the person considers tolerable”
- Have received a prognosis of less than six months to live (or within 12 months for neurodegenerative conditions, such as multiple sclerosis, motor neurone disease)
The law states a person is not eligible for access to voluntary assisted dying if they have a mental illness only, or if they have a disability only. However those with a mental illness and/or a disability can take part if they also fulfil the eligibility criteria above.
Listen: Andrew Denton discusses euthanasia with Mia Freedman. Post continues after audio.
People will not be able to travel to Victoria from other states or countries to be euthanised, unlike in some European countries, as they are not eligible unless they are an Australian citizen who has lived in the state for a year.
A person must make the request for access to voluntary assisted dying themselves – the Bill determines that no one can request voluntary assisted dying on someone else’s behalf.
This means that a medical treatment decision-maker, such as a power of attorney, cannot make the decision. It is also not possible for a person to make a statement to request voluntary assisted dying in advance.
How many people will be euthanised and how many doctors can assist them?
The Herald Sun reported more than 2200 people attended information sessions around Victoria to learn more about the law, but only about 150-200 terminally ill Victorians are expected to seek assisted dying each year.
Only doctors who have undergone special training can assist a person who requests euthanasia. Currently, 90 doctors have undergone this training.
Julian Gardner, Chair of the Voluntary Assisted Dying Implementation Taskforce, told 3AW patients wanting to be euthanised will likely encounter hurdles in the first 12 months, while the law gets off the ground.
“The experience from Canada suggests that in the first 12 months there will be some patients that have some difficulty finding a doctor,” he said.
“We do have two care navigators who, as part of their role, help people who can’t find somebody who is willing and qualified.”