Voluntary Assisted Dying Bill

20 OCTOBER 2022
Voluntary Assisted Dying Bill

On 19 May 2022, the Voluntary Assisted Dying Bill was passed in New South Wales and will come into effect after an 18 month implementation period. Adults with decision-making capacity who are suffering from severe and progressing illnesses that are likely to cause death within six months (or twelve months in the case of neurological diseases) will be eligible to access voluntary assisted dying. Other requirements include that the patient is in pain, that the suffering caused by their illness or condition is unable to be relieved in any other way, and that their decision is informed and consistent.

A person may commence the process by lodging a request through their doctor. This is then assessed for eligibility by a coordinating and consulting medical practitioner. Throughout the process the individual asking to access treatment must be able to state that they are aware of what they are requesting. They must provide three requests (one of which must be in writing and witnessed) over a 5-day period. 

The Bill presently calls for two independent assessments of a person's mental capacity to seek voluntary assisted dying. The assessments are to be performed by doctors who will be instructed on their new legal responsibilities under the Bill. Both doctors must explore alternative treatments which may be available. If a doctor is doubtful about a patient's capacity they must send them to an expert for assessment. The Bill then requires a senior doctor, also known as the coordinating doctor, to apply to the Voluntary Assisted Dying Board for approval to commence procedures.

Power of attorney and enduring guardian documents are irrelevant to these end of life decisions as these documents do not give the power to authorise voluntary assisted dying.