New South Wales Introduces Voluntary Assisted Dying Legislation

Starting tomorrow, terminally ill individuals in New South Wales (NSW) will have the option to request assistance in ending their lives, as the state becomes the last in the country to introduce voluntary assisted dying (VAD). 

The legislation, passed last year, outlines the process and eligibility criteria for accessing this option.

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To be eligible for VAD, individuals must have an advanced and progressive disease, illness, or medical condition expected to cause their death within six months (or 12 months for neurodegenerative diseases). 

Applicants must be at least 18 years old, Australian citizens or residents, and have lived in NSW for at least 12 months, unless an exception is granted. 

The legislation explicitly states that eligibility is not determined by disability, dementia, or mental health impairment.

To request a VAD, the first step involves making a request to a doctor, potentially their usual GP, who has undergone specialist VAD training. 

If the doctor lacks the required training, applicants can seek assistance through the NSW Voluntary Assisted Dying Care Navigator Service. 

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The request must be approved or rejected within two days, with the option for doctors to conscientiously object to the practice.

If the initial request is accepted, the coordinating practitioner oversees the VAD process. Two doctors, including the coordinating doctor, must independently assess the patient’s eligibility. 

After approval, the patient completes a written declaration and makes a final request at least six days after the initial request. 

The coordinating practitioner then conducts a final review before the patient decides how to take the medication.

NSW’s VAD laws are broadly similar to those in other states, with a few distinctions. 

Unlike Victoria and South Australia, practitioners in NSW can initiate discussions about VAD with patients. 

Additionally, patients in NSW have the choice of self-administering VAD medication or having a practitioner administer it, a flexibility not present in Victoria and South Australia.

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