About the Bill

In December 2016, the Victorian Government announced its intention to commence consultations for a voluntary assisted dying framework in Victoria. An expert Ministerial Advisory Panel (the Panel) has been established to facilitate this process with a view to developing a safe and considered framework for the proposed legislation. At the request of the Victorian Government, the Law Institute of Victoria (LIV) has agreed to be involved in the consultation process.

The LIV acknowledges the disparate views among our membership on voluntary assisted dying and has considered this matter very carefully. The LIV has an essential role in the development of legal policy and legislation in Victoria and has an obligation to use its expertise to ensure the proposed legislation is consistent with the rule of law.

The LIV will not participate in moral and social arguments for and against voluntary assisted dying, but will instead focus on ensuring the proposed legislative framework is clear and consistent.

Next Steps

The LIV has convened a Voluntary Assisted Dying Taskforce (the Taskforce) which is made up of expert practitioners who work across a range of areas in the disability, health and aged care sector. The Taskforce also includes representatives from the Young Lawyers Law Reform Committee and LIV Council. The Taskforce is mandated to consider the Voluntary Assisted Dying Bill Discussion Paper (Discussion Paper) within the confines of the LIV Voluntary Assisted Dying Position Statement, which has been approved by LIV Council.

A copy of the LIV Position Statement on Voluntary Assisted Dying can be found here.

Background

This timeline offers a background to the development of the voluntary assisted dying framework, details the LIV's involvement in the consultation process to date, and outlines processes moving forward.

7 May 2015 – the Legislative Council passed a motion ordering the Standing Committee on Legal and Social Issues (the Committee) inquire into the current framework and practices around end of life choices in Victoria (the Inquiry).

21 September 2015 – the LIV made a submission to the Inquiry, but abstained from any comment on voluntary assisted dying. Instead, the LIV emphasised the need for clear and consistent laws regarding advance care planning and medical treatment decision-making in Victoria.

18 November 2015 – the LIV gave evidence at a public hearing in support of its recommendations to the Inquiry.

9 June 2016 the Committee tabled its Final Report (the Report), which recommended, among other things, that the Victorian Government introduce legislation to allow adults with decision-making capacity, suffering from a serious and incurable condition at the end of their life, to be provided assistance to die in certain circumstances.

8 December 2016 the Victorian Government tabled its response to the Report, which outlined, among other things, its support for the proposal to develop a legislative framework for assisted dying in Victoria.

8 December 2016 the Victorian Government notified the LIV of its intention to develop a framework and requested our involvement in the consultation process to provide expert legal advice on how a compassionate and safe legislative framework for assisted dying could be implemented in Victoria.

25 January 2017 – the Victorian Government released the Voluntary Assisted Dying Bill Discussion Paper (the Discussion Paper) seeking feedback on the Committee's recommendations to help create a safe and practical voluntary assisted dying framework.

10 February 2017 – the LIV Council resolved to accept the Victorian Government's invitation to participate in the consultation process. The LIV Council directed the responsible legal policy staff to develop a policy position statement to clearly delineate the scope of the LIV's involvement in the process, expressly noting the LIV would not be engaging in any debate for or against voluntary assisted dying.

1 March 2017  relevant members of the LIV's Legal Policy Department and select committee members attended a consultation with the Panel and other legal and clinical experts to discuss aspects of the proposed legislative framework, noting any involvement was subject to the development of an approved position.

16 March 2017 the LIV organised and convened a Voluntary Assisted Dying Taskforce (the Taskforce), comprised of legal policy lawyers and paralegals and members of our Health Law, Elder Law and Young Lawyers Sections of the LIV. Guided by the Discussion Paper, the Taskforce engaged in robust discussion to inform any submission that may be made on the proposed legislation. 

16 March 2017 – a Position Paper was developed by the relevant legal policy lawyer and advanced to Council for decision. The Position Paper was approved by Council, reflecting that the LIV's involvement on this issue is limited to providing feedback to ensure laws are workable – clear, consistent, and predictable and in line with the rule of law.

From 16 March 2017 the relevant legal policy lawyer and other members of the legal policy team will, in close collaboration with the Taskforce, develop a submission to the Victorian Government in response to the Discussion Paper. This submission will be drafted in line with the LIV's Position Statement and will be subject to robust internal approval processes.

10 April 2017 LIV made a submission to the Expert Ministerial Advisory Panel on the Victorian Government’s model framework.

April 2017 based on the feedback received during the consultation period, the Panel will issue an interim report to Government.

July 2017  the Panel will issue a final report to Government.

Late 2017 – the Victorian Government will develop and introduce legislation for a voluntary assisted dying framework in Victoria.

Contact

Should you have any questions regarding any stage in this process, please contact VADBill@liv.asn.au.

 

 

Support Services

  • Vic Lawyers' Health

    Independently administered by Optum. Vic Lawyers'Health provides 24 hour wellbeing services for LIV members over the phone and up to three face-to-face counselling sessions.


    1300 664 744

    www.viclawyershealth.com.au

    Read More
  • Wellbeing and the Law Foundation

    The WATL Foundation is a joint initiative of the Law Institute of Victoria (LIV) and Victorian Bar (Vic Bar) established in 2013 to raise funds to support the mental health and wellbeing of the legal profession; people who work within the profession and law students.



    www.watlfoundation.org.au

    Read More

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What is being proposed?

    In response to a cross-party Parliamentary Committee’s findings that the current medical system does not adequately provide for the pain and suffering some people experience at the end of their life, the Victorian Government proposes introducing legislation for voluntary assisted dying in Victoria. It is proposed that people with decision-making capacity who are experiencing unbearable pain and suffering at the end of their life be able to access medical intervention to end their lives in certain and limited circumstances.

  • Why is the LIV getting involved in social issues, such as voluntary assisted dying?

    The Victorian Government has announced that a legislative framework for Voluntary Assisted Dying will be introduced in late 2017. As Victoria’s peak professional body for the legal profession, the LIV has an essential role to play in the development of legal policy and legislation in Victoria and has an obligation to use its expertise to ensure the proposed legislation is consistent with the rule of law.

    The LIV have set up a Voluntary Assisted Dying Taskforce comprised of members from diverse backgrounds and with varied legal experience and expertise.  The purpose of the Taskforce is to review the proposed legislative framework for clarity and consistency, and to ensure adequate safeguards are incorporated at each stage in the process.

    The LIV is not engaging in the moral and social arguments with respect to having access to assisted dying, the responsibility for the decision whether or not to approve the Bill lies with the elected representatives in Parliament after appropriate debate.

  • Under the proposed framework, will substitute decision-makers, such as powers of attorney, be able to make the decision to end a person’s life?

    No. Under the proposed framework, a substitute decision-maker will not be able to make a request on behalf of another person to access voluntary assisted dying. Any request for voluntary assisted dying must be voluntarily made by a person with decision-making capacity who fully understands their condition and the nature and effect of their decision to access voluntary assisted dying.

  • Will a person be able to access voluntary assisted dying because it is documented in a legally binding advance care directive?

    No. Under the proposed framework, a request to access voluntary assisted dying may only be made by a person at the end of their life with a serious, incurable condition that causes unbearable suffering. A directive in an advance care plan will not enable a person to access voluntary assisted dying.

  • How will a person make a request to access voluntary assisted dying?

    The cross-party Parliamentary Committee has recommended to Government that any request for voluntary assisted dying must be ‘enduring’. This is sought to be achieved by requiring three requests be made and approved by two medical practitioners before a person can access life ending  medication. It is proposed that a first request be made verbally, followed by a formal written request (duly witnessed), followed by a final verbal request.  It is proposed that where necessary, this will involve specialist consultation to assess capacity.

  • How is a person protected from undue influence?

    The proposed framework requires the person seeking access to voluntary assisted dying must freely and voluntarily drive the process.

    The Government has also identified the need to consider appropriate deterrent safeguards, including robust witnessing requirements and the creation of new criminal offences.

    The role of the LIV Taskforce is to assess whether the proposed safeguards are adequate, and if not, propose additional or alternative safeguards to prevent the occurrence of coercion and undue influence.

  • Can a person make a request to access voluntary assisted dying then change their mind?

    Yes. The proposed framework allows a person to  change their mind at any time in the process, including after the request has been approved and after the life-ending medication has been obtained, but not ingested, by the person.

    The proposed framework will require both the primary and secondary doctor to inform the patient that they are under no obligation to continue with a request for voluntary assisted dying and that they may revoke their request at any time.

  • Where a person decides not to go through with their decision to end their life, what happens to the life ending medication?

    This will be the subject of careful consideration during the consultation process. The LIV’s Taskforce considers it paramount that any legislation for voluntary assisted dying makes adequate provision for personal and community safety.

  • How can we be sure a person has been properly informed in reaching their decision?

    In addition to existing requirements on medical practitioners to provide appropriate information to their patients, the Government proposes to give careful consideration to the specific information that should be provided to patients seeking to access voluntary assisted dying.

  • What if there are factors affecting the person’s ability to understand the information provided?

    The LIV supports balancing equal accessibility with necessary safeguards. Information should be provided in a way that promotes understanding, including: in a language or format accessible to the person; in culturally appropriate and sensitive ways; or with any practicable supports that would enable the person to understand the information provided, such as, through the use of: qualified interpreters, Auslan interpreters, brail or other appropriate alternative formats.

    The Government proposes to give careful consideration to the development of resources to facilitate understanding of the proposed legislation.

  • Will a person suffering from a mental health condition be able to access voluntary assisted dying?

    The proposed framework makes it clear that pain and suffering as a result of a mental health condition alone will not satisfy the eligibility criteria to access voluntary assisted dying. Where a person requesting access to voluntary assisted dying is suffering from a mental health condition and it is suspected this is affecting their capacity to make a decision, they must be referred to a specialist for a capacity assessment.

  • Will doctors and health care practitioners be forced to participate in the implementation of the framework?

    The Government has acknowledged the differing views on voluntary assisted dying will be a key principle guiding the consultation process. It is envisaged any proposed legislation will make provision for doctors and health care practitioners to refuse to participate in the voluntary assisted dying process on religious or conscientious grounds.

  • Will this be affected by the commencement of new medical treatment laws in Victoria?

    No. The Medical Treatment Planning and Decisions Act 2016 (Vic), which is due to come into operation on or before 12 March 2018 aims to simplify the existing legislative framework for medical treatment decision-making in Victoria. Among other things, the Act repeals the Medical Treatment Act 1988 (Vic); provides for binding advance care directives; and replaces powers of attorney (medical treatment) with medical treatment decision-makers. The new laws will not affect the operation of the voluntary assisted dying framework.

    We will publish more detailed information about the Medical Treatment Planning and Decisions Act on our website closer to its commencement date

    For further information, please see the Victorian Government’s Voluntary Assisted Dying Bill Discussion Paper.

    If you have any questions regarding the proposed legislative framework, please contact the Voluntary Assisted Dying Taskforce Secretariat at VAD@liv.asn.au.