Queensland has become the fifth State to pass laws relating to Voluntary Assisted Dying.
The scheme will be operational from January 2023.
The key points:
1. Voluntary Assisted Dying (“VAD”) allows a person who is suffering and dying to choose the timing and circumstances of their death.
2. There are strict eligibility criteria for accessing VAD.
3. It is a feature of the legislation that VAD is only for people at the end of life who are suffering and dying.
4. A person must be separately and independently assessed by two medical practitioners – who meet the relevant qualification and training requirements.
5. A person must have an advanced progressive condition that will:-
a. cause their death within 12 months; and
b. be causing a level of suffering that the person (subjectively) considers intolerable.
6. The person must:-
a. have decision making capacity;
b. be acting voluntarily;
c. be over the age of 18 years; and
d. fulfil certain residency requirements.
7. A safeguard in the legislation is that the person seeking to access VAD has the required level of decision making capacity.
The person’s decision making capacity must be independently assessed by two medical practitioners as part of the request and assessment process.
The person must be capable of:-
(i) Understanding the nature and effect of decisions about VAD;
(ii) Freely and voluntarily making decisions about access to VAD; and
(iii) Communicating their decisions in some way.
8. Three separate requests for access must be made by the person, one of which must be in writing and witnessed by two eligible witnesses.
9. After the request and assessment process is complete, it may proceed (in consultation with and on the advice of their co-ordinating doctor), to a stage of administering the VAD substance. There is a regime that details the process concerning the administering of the VAD substance. It can be self-administered or by a health practitioner.
The Queensland Law has some similarities with VAD schemes in other jurisdictions and draws on the experiences in those jurisdictions.