Victoria will establish a state-wide navigator service to support people who want access to voluntary assisted dying (VAD) and connect them with participating health professionals and services when VAD is implemented in the state in June.
VAD became legal in Victoria in November 2017 with the passage of Australia-first legislation and from June 19, Victorians will be able to legally end their lives if they meet a set of stringent criteria.
Based on overseas experiences, it’s estimated that between 100 and 150 people will end their lives in the first year of implementation, Cate O’Kane, project manager for Voluntary Assisted Dying with the Victorian Health Association told LASA’s tri-state conference on Monday.
Ms O’Kane said the first of four VAD care navigator roles has been advertised. Once appointed, the successful applicant will be tasked with setting up the service across the state in consultation with stakeholders.
Two of the navigators will be based at the Peter McCallum Cancer Centre, however they are not cancer specific.
“The people in these roles will be responsible for supporting the person who wants to access VAD their carers, family and friends, and supporting health and medical practitioners in their roles supporting the person accessing VAD,” she said.
“They will be supporting people who request access to VAD, including connecting people with participating medical practitioners or health services.”
Training of health professionals who want to participate in VAD, including medical practitioners who will be involved in prescribing the medication, will begin in March, although it is unclear what the uptake will be, Ms O’Kane said.
“It might start up slow and as doctors test the water more might sign up, or they might chose to do it for a particular patient,” she said.
or someone to be able to end their life under VAD laws, they must be over 18, a Victorian citizen, have decision-making capacity and be expected to die within six months, or 12 months for people with a neurodegenerative disease.
It is an offence to for anyone to suggest that someone else undertake VAD or to assist in administrating the medication.
People will also need to go through a rigorous process before receiving the medication, which will be dispensed via a single government-funded Statewide Pharmacy Service based at the Alfred Hospital and delivered in a locked box.
One they are in possession of the box, the person accessing VAD can administer the medication at any time.
Ms O’Kane said it’s not expected that the laws will be frequent in aged care. However aged care organisations and are advised to prepare for implementation by establishing a VAD working group. They should also:
- Educate staff on the legislation and take a survey to establish who is willing to participate
- Consider the protocol for managing VAD requests
- Update or create new policies procedures and guidelines
- Look at clinical governance
- Consider IT and documentation requirements
VHA has developed a comprehensive set of resources for those involved in end of life care including health practitioners, nurses, hospitals, community health services, aged care providers and palliative care services.
More information and resources can be found here hospitals-and-health-services/patient-care/end-of-life-care/voluntary-assisted-dying
A Voluntary Assisted Dying Implementation Conference will be held from May 8-10.
Edit: The DHHS later clarified that initial uptake of VAD is expected to be slow and based on overseas experience the number of people who access voluntary assisted dying in the first year is expected to be small.