Ministerial Advisory Panel on Voluntary Assisted Dying: final report

Euthanasia Assisted dying Victoria

An outline was proposed by the Legislative Council’s Legal and Social Issues Committee (the Parliamentary Committee) Inquiry into End of Life Choices. The Parliamentary Committee provided a broad policy direction for voluntary assisted dying that focused on allowing a person to self-administer a lethal dose of medication. The role of the Panel was to consider how this could work in practice and to ensure only those making voluntary and informed decisions and at the end of their life could access voluntary assisted dying.

Following its extensive Inquiry into end of life choices, the Parliamentary Committee made 49 recommendations, 48 of which related to palliative care and advance care planning. The 49th recommendation outlined their proposal for legalising voluntary assisted dying in Victoria.

The Panel supports the recommended improvements for palliative care and advance care planning, noting that the reforms will ensure people have genuine choice at the end of their life. While the Panel is of the view that voluntary assisted dying implementation should be considered in the context of existing care options available to people at the end of life, detailed consideration of the other 48 recommendations made by the Parliamentary Committee is beyond the Panel’s terms of reference.

The Panel’s recommendations are informed by an extensive consultation process. In January 2017 the Panel released the Voluntary Assisted Dying Bill Discussion Paperwhich received 176 submissions. The Panel also conducted 14 forums and a series of roundtables with more than 300 stakeholders across Victoria. This process enabled constructive, open and informative discussions with people who held a broad spectrum of views about voluntary assisted dying.

The forums allowed participants to voice their concerns, ideas and diverse experiences, and to hear responses directly from members of the Panel. The Panel respects the way participants in the forums and roundtable discussions engaged with the process to offer their considered input, reflecting their particular expertise and experience.

Feedback from the consultation process is summarised in the Panel’s Interim Report, which was provided to the Minister for Health in April 2017 and publicly released on 17 May 2017.

In formulating its recommendations, the Panel relied on a number of guiding principles.

These principles are that:

Every human life has equal value.

A person’s autonomy should be respected.

A person has the right to be supported in making informed decisions about their medical treatment and should be given, in a manner that they understand, information about medical treatment options, including comfort and palliative care.

Every person approaching the end of life should have access to quality care to minimise their suffering and maximise their quality of life.

The therapeutic relationship between a person and their health practitioner should, wherever possible, be supported and maintained.

Open discussions about death and dying and peoples’ preferences and values should be encouraged and promoted.

Conversations about treatment and care preferences between the health practitioner, a person and their family, carers and community should be supported.

Providing people with genuine choice must be balanced with the need to safeguard people who might be subject to abuse.

All people, including health practitioners, have the right to be shown respect for their culture, beliefs, values and personal characteristics.

The Panel recognises the need to balance respect for autonomy with safeguarding individuals and communities in relation to voluntary assisted dying. The Panel is of the view that the eligibility criteria, the process to access voluntary assisted dying, and the oversight measures recommended appropriately balance these aims.

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