15 January 2024

The NSW Ministry of Health has arranged for the Voluntary Assisted Dying First Request Patient Information Guide (see digital version) to be printed. 

This guide outlines the background to voluntary assisted dying and the eligibility criteria.

It has information about the voluntary assisted dying process for patients who have made a first request (a formal request to a doctor to access voluntary assisted dying). 

The digital version will continue to be available, and patients can be provided with either the digital version or a printed copy (which are identical).

Practices or individual doctors can order copies from NSW Health Better Health Centre by emailing nslhd-bhc@health.nsw.gov.au with the following details:

  • facility name/ doctor name 
  • number of copies required (up to 30 copies allowed per order)
  • street address for the copies to be delivered to
  • contact for the order

Central Support Service Referral Form

The SWSLHD Voluntary Assisted Dying – Central Support Service Referral Form is now available. This referral can only be completed with the patient’s consent and if you believe the eligibility criteria has been met.

Download the referral form

Griefline resources for patients

Practical information and guidance is available to help family and friends cope with grief after voluntary assisted dying.

Griefline has developed the resource, which is available on its website.

08 December 2023

The Federal Court has ruled conversations about voluntary assisted dying (VAD) must not occur via telehealth.

The 30 November ruling means there is no current delineation in federal law between VAD and suicide – that is, if doctors use telecommunications to transmit information to patients about VAD they could be found in breach of the Commonwealth Criminal Code Act and face criminal charges.

At this time, healthcare providers should not use telehealth for any matters, or even conversations, relating to VAD.

If this presents an issue for your patients, contact the NSW Voluntary Assisted Dying Care Navigator Service which will connect patients to a NSW employed VAD Visiting Medical Officer (VMO) in any area across the state. 

We will keep you updated with any additional information as it becomes available.

Find out more

Access VAD resources

08 December 2023

A Federal Court hearing has highlighted inconsistencies between State and Commonwealth laws, ruling voluntary assisted dying (VAD) comes under the definition of suicide and, therefore, the use of telehealth and other communication carriages, such as phones and emails, is unlawful.

Justice Wendy Abraham presided over Carr v Attorney-General in the Federal Court on 30 November, where Victorian medical practitioner Dr Nicholas Carr had applied for a declaration to resolve a legal question regarding the meaning of “suicide”:

“Does the word “suicide”, as used in … the Criminal Code Act 1995 (Cth), apply to the ending of a person’s life in accordance with, and by means authorised by the Voluntary Assisted Dying Act 2017 (Vic) and Voluntary Assisted Dying Regulations 2018 (Vic).”

Justice Abraham found in the affirmative, concluding: “… voluntary assisted dying, while a means carefully regulated, and a societally approved means of a person intentionally taking their own life, remains a means of a person taking their own life”.

Under the Commonwealth Criminal Code, it is an offence to use a ‘carriage service’ – such as a phone or video call – to counsel or incite suicide.

Dr Carr said in a RACGP’s newsGP article he believed the ruling would have a detrimental impact on GPs who supported VAD.
 
“It is not an easy process for people to take part in, it’s poorly remunerated and there are lots of other barriers,” Dr Carr said. “And now with the threat of legal action for use of the telephone or internet for any form of voluntary assisted dying care, it’s certainly not going to help people feel enthusiastic about taking part.”

He added the ruling did not consider the human differences between VAD and suicide.

“‘The real human experience of what voluntary assisted dying is, and how gentle and peaceful and comforting it is, and how different that is from the awful realities of suicide, that human experience never got mentioned.”

While Justice Abraham acknowledged the inconsistencies of the law, she said: “Section 109 of the Constitution resolves that conflict by giving the Commonwealth law paramountcy…”.

Western Australian Independent MP Kate Chaney has said publicly she intends to introduce a private member’s bill in 2024 seeking to exempt VAD from the Criminal Code.

Read more:

RACGP’s newsGP

Read other responses:

VADANZ urges reform of Cth Criminal Code

‘Retrograde’ Federal Court ruling on telehealth and voluntary assisted dying will lead to further suffering

Download VAD resources:

Voluntary assisted dying

30 November 2023

There are 11 steps in the voluntary assisted dying process in NSW. You can pause or stop the process at any time.

  1. You make a first request for voluntary assisted dying to a doctor
  2. A coordinating doctor completes a first assessment
  3. Another doctor does a consulting assessment
  4. You complete a written declaration
  5. You make a final request for voluntary assisted dying
  6. Your coordinating doctor completes a final review
  7. You decide how to take the medication, with support from your doctor
  8. Your doctor applies for a medication authorisation. The Voluntary Assisted Dying Board grants approval
  9. Your doctor prescribes the medication
  10. You take or are given the medication if and when you choose
  11. A death certificate is issued

The NSW Voluntary Assisted Dying Care Navigator Service is a phone line run by NSW Health to answer questions about voluntary assisted dying.

Need this information in another language?

Visit NSW to find factsheets for people considering voluntary assisted dying in many other languages.
NSW VAD Language Resources

The Service will support everyone including patients and families.

Call 1300 802 133
Monday to Friday 8:30am to 4:30pm

 

Visit the NSW Health website for more information on voluntary assisted dying 

Voluntary assisted dying (nsw.gov.au)

23 November 2023

Jump to information for healthcare providers

 

The Voluntary Assisted Dying Act 2022 comes into effect on 28 November 2023, meaning eligible people in NSW will be able to request medical assistance to end their life.

A person must be in the late stages of an advanced disease, illness or medical condition. They must also be experiencing extreme suffering.

If a person meets all the criteria and the steps set out in the law are followed, they can take or be given a voluntary assisted dying (VAD) substance to bring about their death at a time they choose. The substance must be prescribed by an authorised voluntary assisted dying practitioner.

‘Voluntary’ means the choice must be the person’s own. The person must have decision-making capacity throughout the entire process to access voluntary assisted dying.

People with dementia are generally not eligible for VAD. This is because dementia advanced enough to allow a person to qualify for VAD is likely to hinder their ability to make decisions.

A disability or mental illness alone does not make a person eligible for VAD, unless they meet all the other eligibility criteria.

During the last 18 months, NSW Health has worked with the community and health, aged care and other stakeholders to implement the framework set out in the legislation, to ensure voluntary assisted dying is safe, accessible and follows the law.

Strict criteria must be met to access voluntary assisted dying. To be eligible, a person must:

  • Be an adult (18 years and older), an Australian citizen or a permanent resident of Australia or who has been resident in Australia for at least three continuous years
  • Have been living in NSW for at least 12 months (the Voluntary Assisted Dying Board may consider a residency exemption on compassionate grounds for a person with a substantial connection to NSW)

Have at least one disease, illness or medical condition which:

  • Is advanced and progressive
  • Will, on the balance of probabilities, cause their death within six months (or within 12 months for neurodegenerative diseases like motor neurone disease), and
  • Is causing the person suffering which cannot be relieved in a way the person considers tolerable
  • Have decision-making capacity in relation to voluntary assisted dying
  • Be acting voluntarily and without pressure or duress, and
  • Have an enduring request for access to voluntary assisted dying

The exact process for VAD differs slightly from state to state, but the basic process involves these steps:

  • A person requests VAD from an eligible medical practitioner
  • The same eligible medical practitioner does an eligibility assessment for VAD
  • A second eligible medical practitioner does an eligibility assessment for VAD
  • The person requests for VAD again, in writing
  • The person makes a final request for VAD
  • Officials authorise VAD. (The two doctors who assess VAD eligibility must both have undertaken specialised VAD training in the state where they practice)
  • An eligible healthcare practitioner prescribes and dispenses VAD medicine

Either:

  • an eligible person takes VAD medicine, or
  • an eligible healthcare practitioner gives the eligible person VAD medicine

If you take the VAD medicine yourself (self-administration), you can choose a suitable time and place to do so. If you wish, other people, such as friends and family, can be there.

If VAD medicine is given by a healthcare practitioner, most states require a witness.

It’s important to remember you can withdraw (stop) your request for VAD at any time, even after you have had an assessment or made a request in writing.

There are several VAD services to support and assist patients, family, carers, health practitioners and services providers through the process and steps.

The Voluntary Assisted Dying Care Navigator Service is available to:

  • Provide information and support to patients and other community members with questions about or wishing to seek access to voluntary assisted dying
  • Support queries from practitioners and coordinate ongoing training and support for coordinating, consulting and administering practitioners
  • Advise patients how to raise voluntary assisted dying with their clinical care team and, in some circumstances, connect them with coordinating, consulting, and administering practitioners

The Voluntary Assisted Dying Pharmacy Service is responsible for:

  • Coordinating the safe procurement, supply and disposal of the voluntary assisted dying substance across NSW
  • Supporting patient access to the voluntary assisted dying substance regardless of their setting, for example, the patient may be in their home, at a residential care facility or a public hospital

The Voluntary Assisted Dying Board is an independent oversight and decision-making body with key functions including to:

  • Monitor and report on the operation of the Act
  • Decide whether to approve or refuse applications for access to voluntary assisted dying
  • Keep a list of registered health practitioners who are willing to provide voluntary assisted dying services

Voluntary assisted dying will be embedded within each local health district’s end-of-life care pathways and patients must be informed about all options available to them, including palliative care and other treatment options, in line with their goals of care.

A person’s decision to seek information about, or access to, voluntary assisted dying has no impact on the person’s access to high-quality palliative care.

It’s also important to note a person cannot request VAD as part of their advance care planning (to ensure your family and medical team are aware of your medical wishes if you lose the ability to make decisions yourself). This is because an advance care directive comes into effect only once you no longer have decision-making capacity.

 

For more information about voluntary assisted dying:

Talk to your GP

Download the Health Resource Directory Voluntary Assisted Dying factsheet available to read or listen in Arabic, Chinese, English and Vietnamese.

Visit NSW Health – Voluntary Assisted Dying in NSW

Go Gentle Australia

Dying with Dignity NSW

Healthdirect