Estate Group update: Voluntary Assisted Dying Act effective 19 June 2019

Jun 12, 2019

From 19 June 2019, Victoria will become the first state in Australia to legalise voluntary assisted dying — allowing Victorians in late stages of advanced illnesses the opportunity to end their life in a peaceful and pain-free manner.

While the subject has raised complex legal and ethical challenges, the Voluntary Assisted Dying Act 2017 provides strict guidelines and safeguarding to regulate the process.

To be eligible for treatment to assist dying, the person must:

  • be over the age of 18;
  • have resided in Victoria for at least 12 months;
  • have the mental capacity to understand, retain and weigh information about voluntary assisted dying and be able to communicate their decision;
  • have a diagnosis which is:
    • incurable, advanced and progressive;
    • causing suffering that cannot be relieved; and
    • predicted to cause death within no more than six months, or 12 months for a neurodegenerative diagnoses.

Unlike palliative care and end-of-life services, voluntary assisted dying will not be widely available. Participation by health care services is not compulsory and the legislation grants health care professionals the right to refuse to provide information and supply the medication.

What you need to know in regard to Advance Care Directives and Medical Treatment Decision Makers

From an estate planning perspective, the decision to undergo voluntary assisted dying must be made by the person during the advanced stages of their illness and while they have mental capacity, meaning:

  • voluntary assisted dying cannot be stipulated in an Advanced Care Directive; and
  • no other person can make the decision for you, for example, an appointed medical treatment decision-maker.

Importantly, neither an Advance Care Directive nor an Appointment of Medical Treatment Decision Maker can be used to express a person’s wishes for voluntary assisted dying.

More information

For more information on the legislation, or advice in relation to estate planning, please contact our Estate Group on (03) 8600 8885.

Author

This Estate Group update was co-authored by Ainsleigh Valentine, Associate, and Amelia Fewings, Probate Clerk.

Note: This update is a guide only and is not intended to constitute legal advice.

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