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Victoria’s assisted dying plan revealed and explained

Victorians living with motor neurone disorder or life after a stroke might one day be able to access voluntary assisted dying.

Health minister Jill Hennessy released an interim report on voluntary euthanasia on Wednesday 17 May 2017, saying that if the state is to have an assisted dying model, it would be a conservative one.

She ruled out people with dementia and Alzheimer’s being able to take up the option as they would need to have the “mental competence to make that choice”.

The report, which is based on submissions to a panel investigating a potential framework for an assisted dying bill, reached no conclusion about when terminally ill people might be able opt for an assisted death.

Submissions variously said people should be able to opt in six months before their expected death, to two years before an expected death. Some said terminally ill people should be able to opt in any time.

Hennessy says it would be important to consider the “trajectory of certain terminal illnesses”. She said cancer was the reason most people overseas sought assisted dying.

“But there are many neurological diseases which may require us to look at a time frame that reflects the very cruel trajectory of those illnesses,” she said.

It is my view that if Victoria is to have an assisted dying model, it needs to be a relatively conservative one,” she said. “It needs to be able to align with other practices within the healthcare system.”

The report notes the need to consider progressive neurological disorders, some cerebrovascular and non-cancer conditions when deciding access.

Right To Life Australia president Margaret Tighe said the government was paving the way for “passports for suicides” and she would try to have it defeated when it went before parliament.

Australian Medical Association Victoria president Lorraine Baker said the report correctly states medical experts should have more training and at least five years’ experience or fellowship training before they could assess patient eligibility.

But the debate still rages about how long a terminally ill person has to live in Victoria before they are allowed to access the state service, with one submitter suggesting a minimum of a year.

The bill will go before parliament by the end of the year and is expected to be introduced 18 months later.

The Stroke Association of Victoria, MND Australia and the opposition have been contacted for comment.

Who would be eligible for victoria’s voluntary euthanasia plan?

  • People 18 or older.
  • Victorian residents who are Australian citizens or permanent residents.
  • People competent to decide about own medical treatment.
  • People suffering from a serious and incurable condition they deem is not tolerable.

What’s the suggested process?

  • A person must make three requests, two verbal and one written.
  • Two doctors must assess eligibility, and if mental illness could be an issue, a person must see a psychiatrist.
  • The lethal drug could be administered by the person, or with help from a doctor.
  • Pharmacists would dispense the drug under a similar protocol to the methadone program at selected pharmacies.

For mental health support, contact Lifeline at 13 11 14 or beyondblue at 1300 22 4636.

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