Victorian VAD review rules out changes to law

2 minute read

The mandatory review is purely operational and will not encompass potential changes such as the inclusion of dementia patients.

Dementia advocates looking for inclusion in voluntary assisted dying legislation have had their hopes dashed in at least one state with Victorian Minister for Health Mary-Ann Thomas confirming the mandatory review of the state’s VAD legislation “will not consider any changes”.

The legally required review of the first four years of the nation’s first VAD law has started with a final report due by the end of 2024.

“The review will not consider any changes to the legislation,” said the government announcement.

“It will instead evaluate the systems, processes and practices which underpin the operation of the Voluntary Assisted Dying Act including safeguards and protections, equity of access, the Voluntary Assisted Dying Review Board’s role and functions and the Department of Health-commissioned Statewide Pharmacy and Care Navigator services.”

The review will be undertaken by the Centre for Evaluation and Research Evidence. Targeted stakeholder consultations will occur later in 2023 across different consultation formats. After the review concludes in 2024, the report, including key findings, will be tabled in both Houses of Parliament.

Victoria was the first state to pass VAD legislation, which came into effect on 19 June 2019.

According to Safer Care Victoria, between June 2019 and 30 June 2022, 1425 Victorians were assessed for eligibility to access voluntary assisted dying; 1035 permits were issued; 604 permit-holders died from taking the prescribed substance; and 326 trained medical practitioners were registered to support voluntary assisted dying.

The median age of applicants was 73 years, and half of all applicants were aged 65-81 years; 54% of the applicants were male; 37% of applicants lived in regional Victoria, despite only 22% of the Victorian population living in regional areas; 81% of applicants were accessing palliative care at the time of requesting voluntary assisted dying; and 17% had a non-malignant diagnosis, most commonly a neurodegenerative disease.

Only Victorian adults who have an incurable, advanced and progressive medical condition and who have decision-making capacity can access voluntary assisted dying.

“We’ve led the way in voluntary assisted dying access in Australia, and our voluntary assisted dying law continues to give Victorians a compassionate option at the end of their life,” said Ms Thomas.

“By speaking with those involved in voluntary assisted dying, this operational review will allow us to look at how the law has been implemented and consider ways to make the existing system work even better for those who need it.”

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