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By December 5, 2022No Comments

In 2021, Queensland took a momentous step in passing the Voluntary Assisted Dying Bill 2021. When implemented, this framework will enable Queenslanders who are already dying to access Voluntary Assisted Dying. Ultimately, these laws seek to provide terminally ill individuals with a choice to die on their own terms, where illness has stripped away their autonomy. However, the legislative framework is necessarily complex and imposes strict eligibility requirements on who can access voluntary assisted dying. This article provides a guide to help you navigate this novel and legally intricate terrain.

When do the laws come into effect?

From 1 January 2023, the Act will commence, and Queenslanders will be able to access voluntary assisted dying.

Who is eligible?

For an individual to access voluntary assisted dying, they must meet the eligibility criteria. Notably, any person applicant must meet all of the following criteria:

  • The person has been diagnosed with a disease, illness or medical condition that is advanced, will cause death in the next 12 months and involves intolerable suffering to the person; and

Note: this does not include disability or mental illness by itself…

  • The person has capacity to make the decision; and
  • The person is at least 18-years old; and
  • The person is an Australian citizen, permanent resident or has resided in Australia for three (3) years; and
  • The person has been a resident in Queensland for at least 12 months prior to the request for voluntary assisted euthanasia.

What does ‘decision making capacity’ mean?

  • Understands the nature and effect of voluntary assisted dying;
  • Is capable of freely and voluntarily making a decision of this kind;
  • Is capable of communicating their decision about voluntary assisted dying;
  • There is a presumption in favour of capacity.

What are the requirements?

The formal requirements to access voluntary assisted dying, involves three requests:-

  • First Request
  • The person must make a clear and unambiguous request to a medical practitioner requesting access to voluntary assisted dying.  The first request can either be accepted or refused by the medical practitioner.  Refusal by the medical practitioner can be on grounds of conscientious objection to voluntary assisted dying or be unavailable to perform duties as coordinating practitioner.  If accepted, the medical practitioner then becomes the coordinating practitioner and has obligations to provide informative information about the process.
  • Following acceptance there is a rigorous assessment process to determine the person as meeting the eligibility requirements or not.  This is a two step process requiring the coordinating practitioner to asses the person and if they meet the eligibility requirements the person is then referred to a consulting doctor to undertake a second assessment.  Where the consulting doctor will perform a second assessment on the same criteria of eligibility to independently assess the person for eligibility to access the voluntary assisted dying.
  • Second Request
  • The second request is a written request on an approved form, signed by the person and witnessed by two eligible witnesses (not a beneficiary in a Will, not a person involved in or at any health facility where the person is being treated or lives, not the coordinating or consulting doctor).
  • Third Request
  • The person makes a final request (verbal, gestures or other means of communication) to the coordinating doctor to commence the final review process.  The coordinating doctor must complete the final review form and provide a copy to the person.
  • The final request shall not be made before the end of the designated period, being 9 days from and including the day on which the person made the first request.

This article is not a comprehensive step by step process of the voluntary assisted dying laws and requirements, it is an overview of the eligibility requirements for access to voluntary assisted dying in Queensland.

Getting Your Affairs in Order

If you are faced with a decision of whether to access voluntary assisted dying you should contact us to discuss navigating these laws and requirements to access and ensure your estate planning is in order.  We can assist you in the preparation of your Will, Enduring Power of Attorney and/or Advance Health Directive and any other requirements you may need prior.

Please contact Natasha Hughes to discuss or for more information.