Voluntary assisted dying
Since June 2019, Victorians approaching the end of life who are suffering and meet strict eligibility criteria have been able to request access to voluntary assisted dying (VAD).
It is important for general practices and practitioners to be informed about VAD, even if they choose not to participate as a coordinating or consulting doctor.
For information on palliative and end-of-life care, see our palliative care web page.
For community and consumer information about VAD, visit the Victorian Department of Health’s website.
- To access VAD a patient needs to make a request to a doctor, who may choose whether to accept it. A health practitioner is not allowed to raise VAD with their patients.
- There are 2 main roles for doctors in VAD: the coordinating doctor (who can be a GP), and the consulting doctor (who is usually a non-GP specialist in the patient’s condition). Both must complete VAD training prior to assessing patient’s eligibility.
- VAD care navigators are senior clinicians (nurses or allied health professionals) who are points of contact for the public, health practitioners and health services seeking information about or assistance with VAD. They have knowledge of the network of participating medical practitioners.
- Eligible people are prescribed a VAD substance to take themselves or, if they are physically incapable of doing so, have it administered by a doctor with the appropriate permit.
The voluntary assisted dying process: an overview
Eligibility for voluntary assisted dying in Victoria
To access voluntary assisted dying a person must meet all eligibility criteria. They must:
- be 18 years of age or over
- be an Australian citizen or permanent resident
- be ordinarily resident in Victoria
- have been a resident in Victoria for 12 months at the time of making a first request for voluntary assisted dying
- have decision-making capacity in relation to voluntary assisted dying
- have an incurable disease, illness or medical condition that
- is advanced, progressive and will cause their death
- is expected to cause their death within 6 months (or within 12 months for patients with a neurodegenerative medical condition)
- is causing suffering to the person that cannot be relieved in a manner that the person considers tolerable.
The Voluntary Assisted Dying Act 2017 further requires that the person is seeking VAD voluntarily and without coercion.
Statewide voluntary assisted dying care navigators
The statewide voluntary assisted dying care navigator service provides information and support to the community, health practitioners and health services.
Care navigators may provide:
- general information about voluntary assisted dying in Victoria
- individualised support and information, either in a face-to-face consultation or by post
- assistance in connecting people with appropriate medical practitioners and health services
- information about or access to voluntary assisted dying support packages
- holistic advice and follow-up on appropriate end-of-life care services
- education and support to health services and health practitioners.
- Phone: (03) 8559 5823
- Mobile: 0436 848 344
- Email: email@example.com
Medical practitioner roles in VAD
Coordinating medical practitioner
The coordinating medical practitioner can be a GP, and must be a doctor who has completed voluntary assisted dying training. A medical practitioner who receives the patient’s first request for VAD and chooses to accept the role and its responsibilities becomes the coordinating medical practitioner. The coordinating medical practitioner has responsibility for assessing the patient’s eligibility, coordinating the request and assessment process, and prescribing the VAD medication.
If they are willing and comfortable to do so, they may also be responsible for administering a VAD medication when a patient is physically incapable of self-administering or digesting it. Not all voluntary assisted dying doctors are comfortable to take on this role.
Consulting medical practitioner
A medical practitioner who accepts a referral to conduct an independent consulting assessment of the patient’s eligibility for VAD becomes the consulting medical practitioner. This person is usually a specialist in the patient’s condition, and who has also completed voluntary assisted dying training. Other specialists may be involved for specific assessments, such as decision-making capacity.
The Voluntary Assisted Dying Statewide Pharmacy Service supplies the medication for VAD and will deliver it to the person wherever they are across Victoria. The service can provide phone support and advice to coordinating medical practitioners about the prescription of VAD medications.
Other health practitioners
Nursing, allied health and other health practitioners may be asked for information about VAD by patients or may need to provide care and support to patients. They can provide any information they are able to, plus usual care and support, respecting the patient’s choice in the same manner as patients receiving any other type of treatment. They may also be asked to assist in the voluntary assisted dying process in other ways, such as with communication and support.
The care navigators are available to provide support, advice or training for all health practitioners.
Everyone has a right to set their ethical limits and standards. Where a health practitioner’s beliefs and values conflict with VAD they may conscientiously object to being involved. The practitioner should inform the patient as soon as practicable that they will not assist them.
If you object to VAD, it is important not to dismiss patients’ concerns. Care navigators will be able to assist you to advise your patients where they can go if they wish to access VAD. At a minimum, please consider providing the care navigator service details to the patient – even if you do not think the person is eligible.
VAD training and education
VAD training for coordinating and consulting medical practitioners
Medical practitioners who participate in VAD as the coordinating or consulting medical practitioner must complete training prior to assessing the patient’s eligibility.
The training can be undertaken online and takes around 6 hours. It is in modules which may be completed separately at times that are convenient to the medical practitioner.
Victorian Department of Health training videos
These videos were developed as part of the VAD training for medical practitioners. They are intended to assist medical practitioners to understand VAD in practice, including examples of how medical practitioners may have some conversations with patients about it, plus further explanation about how to assess some key factors.
They can be accessed here.
End of Life Law for Clinicians (ELLC)
ELLC is a free training program for medical practitioners, medical students, nurses, and allied and other health professionals about the law relating to end of life decision-making.
Designed by clinicians and experts in end-of-life law, it discusses the key information health professionals need to know, including legal rights and obligations.
Access the program here.
- HealthPathways Melbourne provides clinical advice and easy-to-follow maps of referral services. HealthPathways Melbourne has a comprehensive Voluntary Assisted Dying page that includes processes to follow and where to go for advice and assistance.
- You can find further information on the VAD legislation and access resources and training on the Department of Health’s website.
- End of Life Law in Australia provides information on VAD laws both in Australia and internationally, and their intersection with palliative care and medical treatment decision-making.
- Section 116 of the Voluntary Assisted Dying Act 2017 requires a review of the operation of the first 4 years of the Act to occur in its fifth year, between June 2023 and June 2024. For information, click here.
- Voluntary assisted dying care navigators contact information: