RSA urges supporters to back new bill allowing teleheath for assisted dying

Si Gladman / 23 March 2024

The Rationalist Society of Australia is urging its members and supporters to take action in support of proposed laws that deal with the “telehealth problem” preventing access to timely voluntary assisted dying across the country.

Earlier this year, Independent MP Kate Chaney introduced a private member’s bill into the House of Representatives, proposing a change to the Criminal Code to make it clear that VAD is not suicide.

Although VAD is now legal in all states, many terminally ill Australians, especially in remote and regional areas, are unable to access the humane option because of federal restrictions.

The Commonwealth Criminal Code Amendment (Suicide Related Material Offences) Act 2005 prevents or severely limits the use of telehealth in relation to VAD. Several state agencies charged with administering VAD laws and medical practitioners have raised concerns that VAD could be defined as “using a carriage service to counsel or incite committing or attempting to commit suicide”.

As the RSA has argued, the case of a terminally ill person nearing death and wanting a humane end to their suffering VAD in the company of loved ones is completely different from the act of suicide.


If you or anyone you know needs help:

  • Lifeline on 13 11 14
  • Beyond Blue on 1300 224 636
  • Suicide Call Back Service on 1300 659 467

Chaney is urging supporters to send an email to their local MPs and call on their support for a conscience vote on her bill – the Criminal Code Amendment (Telecommunications Offences for Suicide Related Material – Exception for Lawful Voluntary Assisted Dying) Bill 2024.

In February, she told the parliament this was a “policy problem with a simple solution”.

“Patients that rely on telehealth services due to distance or discomfort don’t have equal access to end-of-life services that are supposed to be available to anyone who qualifies. This problem can be fixed by passing this bill…” she said.

“We have introduced VAD because, as a society, we value choice, compassion and dignity. I’m now calling on the federal government to fix this problem so that all Australians, irrespective of their postcode, have equal access to this choice if they qualify and comply with the strict conditions.”

RSA president Meredith Doig is urging members and supporters of the RSA to write an email to their local MPs, voicing support for the reform and for them to support Chaney’s bill.

If you wish to write a letter, you can use the online form shared by Chaney or simply find your local member’s contact details here to send an original message directly.

In 2022, the RSA wrote to Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus and health minister Mark Butler, calling on the Albanese government to allow medical practitioners to use telehealth for consultations with patients about VAD

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Si Gladman is the Campaigns & Communications Coordinator for the Rationalist Society of Australia. He also hosts ‘The Secular Agenda’ podcast.

Image: Kate Chaney MP (Facebook).

All the more reason.