VAD commencement delayed



Voluntary Assisted Dying is not yet a legal choice in South Australia. The Parliament passed the VAD Bill on June 24, 2021 and the Governor provided Royal Assent on August 24, 2021. However under South Australia's Acts Interpretations Act, the government has up to two years after Royal Assent before legislation will automatically become active. A law can commence earlier than the mandatory two years if the government has administrative processes and Regulations ready.

All other states nominated the commencement date in their VAD legislation. Victoria, WA and Tasmania nominated 18 months; Queensland nominated 15 months, due to the three month delay while the VAD Bill was reviewed by the Queensland Law Reform Commission.

It would be helpful to contact your local state MP or Legislative Councillor to encourage them to seek commencement of VAD in a similar 18 month timeframe in South Australia. That would see commencement by December 2022.

Six months after passage of South Australia's VAD legislation, Minister of Health and Wellbeing Hon Stephen Wade (pictured above left) announced the appointment of a 16 member Implementation Task Force. The majority of members have a palliative care or aged care background and over half are associated with or employed by SA Health.

The Implementation Task Force will be chaired by Federal AMA Vice President, Dr Chris Moy. Dr Moy (pictured above right) is an Adelaide GP who specialises in palliative care and aged care. Dr Moy is on record during debate on the WA VAD Bill in 2019 opposing voluntary assisted dying, saying that "this legislation gives the power for doctors to make decisions, in effect play God, in decisions about an individual".

The over 70 safeguards in the South Australian VAD legislation, which is almost the same as the WA legislation, repeatedly require a person requesting VAD to prove that their request is voluntary and show that they meet the many eligibility criteria. The safeguards are deliberately built into the legislation to ensure that no-one - no doctor, no nurse, no relative - can 'play God' and request or deliver VAD for someone else.

All VAD legislation in Australia unambiguously does not allow a doctor to play God, but rather allows a person to determine for themselves when their suffering has become unbearable and to then request assistance to end that suffering. VAD laws in Australia and overseas are noted for the provisions which deliberately place control over end of life decisions in the hands of the terminally ill person; these provisions are central to the concept of voluntary assisted dying and central to the drafting of all VAD legislation. VAD laws in Australia and overseas provide for the terminally ill person to take control over the manner and timing of their death, no-one else.

Dr Moy's current views about VAD now that Victoria has been in operation for two and a half years and WA for six months, with no evidence of abuse and many stories of the value and benefit of VAD, is unknown.

VADSA President Frances Coombe and Dr Roger Hunt, a palliative care consultant who has advised both the Victorian and WA Governments on implementation of VAD in those states, are both members of the Implementation Task Force.

Details of the membership of the Implementation Task Force and process is available on the SA Health website here.