Aussies given option to ‘die with dignity’

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Australians battling terminal illnesses will soon be able to die “with dignity” as one state finalises steps towards implementing voluntary assisted dying.

South Australia will see “landmark” voluntary assisted dying (VAD) laws come into effect in 27 days, with the first requests for VAD being accepted on January 31.

Dozens of medical practitioners have already signed up to assist people in need amid the Malinauskas government’s commitment of $18 million over the next five years to supporting safe access to the service.

So far, 42 doctors have signed up for crucial training required to conduct eligibility assessments.

However, more doctors are being encouraged to heed the call, so that if a patient comes to them for help, they have completed the mandatory training required.

Online training for doctors includes a competency assessment which medical practitioners will need to pass.

It also includes information about patients’ eligibility criteria and identifying risk factors for abuse or coercion.

SA Health Minister Chris Picton said the introduction of VAD has required careful and methodical work through all the legal, training, technology and health service requirements.

SA Health Minister Chris Picton said VAD had required careful work. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Emma BrasierSA Health Minister Chris Picton said VAD had required careful work. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Emma Brasier

“It is welcome news that we have been able to recruit dedicated and committed staff to be care navigators, liaison nurses and pharmacists – as well as have dozens of doctors so far sign up for the necessary training, with more to follow,” Mr Picton said.

“Over the course of the next few weeks, we will be conducting more public communications so clinicians and the public are aware of how the system will work.”

An experienced team of Care Navigators – professionals with experience in end of life care – has been established, including an interim Nursing Director to oversee four staff comprising of nursing and allied health positions.

A VAD liaison nurse has also been appointed for each of the three South Australian metropolitan Local Health Networks, while one nurse has been recruited for regional SA.

Access to the service will depend on an assessment of eligibility through both a trained co-ordinating medical practitioner and a second independently trained consulting practitioner.

Attorney-General Kyam Maher said VAD would allow South Australians with terminal illnesses the choice of “dying with dignity”.

Attorney-General Kyam Maher said the government worked to introduce the scheme as soon as possible. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Naomi JellicoeAttorney-General Kyam Maher said the government worked to introduce the scheme as soon as possible. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Naomi Jellicoe

“This Government has worked tirelessly to ensure the scheme was implemented as soon as possible,” Mr Maher said.

“VAD will finally be an option in South Australia after 16 previous attempts spanning 27 years to pass legislation.”

A patient looking to go down the VAD pathway will be required to make three separate requests, one being a written and witnessed request.

A final review will then be required before an applying for a permit, to ensure the application complies with safeguards in the legislation.

When the application is successful, the patient will then be able to access medication for self-administration or for the medication to be administered by a doctor.

A dedicated team, including pharmacists, care navigators and the VAD Review Board will be there to support both patients and medical practitioners along the VAD journey.

South Australians wanting to know more can contact the SA Voluntary Assisted Dying Care Navigator Service here, or can call 0403 087 390 during business hours.

The voluntary assisted dying pathway

1. Make a first request for voluntary assisted dying.

2. Doctor completes a first assessment.

3. A consulting doctor completes a second assessment.

4. Complete a written declaration to access voluntary assisted dying.

5. Make a final request for voluntary assisted dying.

6. Choose a Contact Person.

7. Doctor completes a final review.

8. Doctor prescribes medication once permit has been approved.

9. Arrange supply of medication with a pharmacist.

10. Decide to administer medication.

11. Death certification.

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