Steps to consider when accessing Voluntary Assisted Dying in South Australia
Voluntary Assisted Dying (VAD) became a legal end of life choice in South Australia on January 31, 2023.
If you are thinking about voluntary assisted dying, please consider the following:
- If you are diagnosed with an illness and given a prognosis of less than six months, or 12 months for a neurodegenerative disease, you may be eligible for voluntary assisted dying. (see VAD eligibility criteria below)
- If you think you may wish to access voluntary assisted dying, it is important to collect and retain written confirmation of your diagnosis and prognosis. Your doctor may not wish to support your VAD request and this documentation will be useful for the doctors who complete your VAD assessments.
- Talk to your doctor about VAD. Your doctor is prohibited from talking to you about VAD until you mention it.
- You will need to be assessed by two different doctors who will need to confirm that you meet the eligibility criteria.
- Each doctor must have completed the VAD training. This takes about six hours and can be completed online.
- If your doctor does not wish to complete the VAD training and do the VAD assessment you will need to find a VAD trained doctor.
- VAD Care Navigators in SA Health can assist in identifying a VAD trained doctor.
South Australian Voluntary Assisted Dying Care Navigator Service
- Once assessed as eligible, you can decide if and when to make a written request; you can withdraw from the process at any stage and you are not required to continue with the request.
- When making your written request you will need to nominate a Contact Person who will be responsible for managing any remaining drugs.
- Pharmacists will deliver the VAD substance to you at your home or place of residence.
- The VAD process emphasises self administration, however If you are unable to swallow the drugs, your doctor can request a special permit for doctor administration.
- There is no requirement for a doctor to be in attendance when you take the VAD substance. You can discuss this with your doctor and decide who you wish to be with you at the time. You can have family and friends with you.
- All public hospitals and hospices will have information about VAD and will support every step in the VAD process.
- If you have been assessed as eligible for VAD, and there is a possibility that you may be transferred to a hospice or private hospital, you should request a copy of their VAD policy. You may need to make alternative arrangements if the hospice does not allow VAD on their premises. For example, a hospice or private hospital managed by Catholic Health Australia, such as Calvary, has a policy of not supporting VAD on their premises. You may wish to consider stating in your Advance Care Directive that you do not wish to be transferred to a Catholic or Lutheran managed service.
- If you live in a Residential Aged Care house or apartment it is considered by law to be your home and you can request any medical service to be provided in your home, including VAD, regardless of the policy of the facility managers.
- The VAD legislation does not allow you to request VAD in an Advance Care Directive. This is mainly because at every step in the process you must have decision making capacity. Similarly, a person with dementia would not be eligible for VAD unless they still had decision making capacity and had another illness likely to cause their death in the next six months.
VAD Eligibility Criteria
- You must be 18 years old or over.
- You must be an Australian citizen or permanent resident.
- You must live in South Australia and have lived in South Australia for at least 12 months at the time of making a first request.
- You must have decision making capacity in relation to voluntary assisted dying.
- You have been diagnosed with a disease, illness or medical condition that is incurable, is advanced and progressive, and will cause death within 6 months, or 12 months if you have a neurodegenerative disease; the disease, illness or medical condition must be causing suffering to you that cannot be relieved in a manner that you consider tolerable.
- You must be acting freely and without coercion.
VAD is currently available in all states except New South Wales, and the ACT and NT. VAD commenced in Victoria in June 2019, Western Australia in July 2021, Tasmania in October 2022, Queensland on January 1, 2023 and South Australia on January 31, 2023. VAD will commence in New South Wales in November 2023. Legislation passed the Federal Parliament in November 2022 which repealed the 25 year old ban on the Territories debating VAD legislation. The 700,000 residents of the Northern Territory and Australian Capital Territory will now be able to have VAD debated in their Parliaments.
Information about where to find a doctor, the paperwork necessary to satisfy the eligibility criteria and psychosocial support is available through a team of Care Navigators located in SA Health. More information here.
South Australia became the fourth state to pass a voluntary assisted dying law at 11.05am on Thursday June 24.
South Australia's VAD Bill was introduced by Hon Kyam Maher on December 2, 2020 in the Legislative Council.
Dr Susan Close carried the debate in the House of Assembly.
The VAD Bill went backwards and forwards between the two chambers a number of times and was finally passed on June 24.
The Voluntary Assisted Dying Act (2021) received Assent on August 24, 2021.
The Voluntary Assisted Dying Act (2021) is available here.
Hansard for the different debates is available here.
The vote in the House of Assembly:
The vote in the Legislative Council:
Ayes: Bonaros, C, Bourke, ES, Darley, JA, Franks, RA, Hanson, JE, Hunter, IK, Lee, JS, Lensink, JMA, Maher, KJ, Pnevmatikos, I, Ridgway, DW, Simms, RA, Wade, SG, Wortley, RP
Noes: Centofanti, NJ, Hood, DGE, Lucas, RI, Ngo, TT, Pangallo, F, Scriven, CM, Stephens, TJ
Follow VADSA on facebook.
Other actions you can take
join one of the Advocacy Groups - there is no joining fee
- Doctors for Assisted Dying Choice
- Accessible Voluntary Assisted Dying
join us on facebook
ask your library (or public venue) to host a VADSA display; it is 6 panels, 2 metres high; includes brochures
ask your community organisation to invite a VADSA speaker
ask your doctor to display VADSA brochures in their waiting rooms
let us know if you have particular skills which can be of help.