RSA Webinar: Improvements needed in Victorian assisted dying law

Si Gladman / 27 November 2021

Although Victoria’s voluntary assisted dying (VAD) law is working well, many improvements are needed to make it more accessible to people suffering with terminal illness, the latest RSA Webinar heard.

Speaking at Wednesday’s webinar (see recording below), Dr Nick Carr, a Victorian GP involved in providing VAD care, said the process was helping to relieve end-of-life suffering for many people and was giving back their autonomy.

“Even if they don’t get to the point of getting the medication, just being engaged in the process, regaining some of that lost autonomy, has been unbelievably helpful – not for everybody but a lot of people,” he said.

However, Dr Carr (pictured) said improvements were needed to simplify the process and remove barriers for terminally-ill people to access VAD in Victoria.

Such improvements include addressing the rigid rules for residency and citizenship, the ‘gag clause’ that prevents doctors from raising the topic of VAD, a lack of doctors involved in VAD care, and federal laws that prevent doctors from talking about VAD via telehealth. 

Dr Carr appeared alongside Penny Hackett, president of Dying with Dignity New South Wales, as guest speakers, with the webinar held in tribute to the late Dr Rodney Syme. Dr Syme was a Patron of the Rationalist Society.

With the lower house of the NSW parliament in the midst of debate on the VAD bill at that time, Hackett spoke about her concerns that some opponents to the bill would move amendments to “make it difficult for the law to work”.

On Thursday, the bill passed the Legislative Assembly 52-32, and Dying with Dignity NSW said all hostile amendments had been defeated. 

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Si Gladman is Campaigns & Communications Coordinator at the Rationalist Society of Australia. You can contact him at sigladman@rationalist.com.au or follow him on Twitter at @si_gladman

All the more reason.