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Voluntary Assisted Dying A Step Closer

05 January 2019

The pharmacy service at The Alfred hospital will become the sole service for dispensing voluntary assisted dying medications across Victoria, adding further safeguards to the historic scheme.

Acting Minister for Health Martin Foley made the announcement today that the pharmacy service at The Alfred hospital would be responsible for importing, storing, preparing and dispensing medications for Victorians who make the choice to access voluntary assisted dying.

The service will ensure people, no matter where they live, are provided with the medication in accordance with the strict safeguards and guidelines, ensuring the highest controls when it comes to the medication.

In 2017, the Victorian Parliament passed historic legislation to give Victorians at the end of their lives with terminal illness a genuine, compassionate choice about the timing and manner of their death.

The voluntary assisted dying model is the safest and most conservative in the world. The safeguards include:

  • Only adults with decision making capacity, who are suffering and have an incurable, advanced and progressive disease, illness or medical condition that is likely to cause death within six months (or 12 months for people with neurodegenerative conditions) can access the scheme
  • A person may only access voluntary assisted dying if they meet all of the strict eligibility criteria, make three clear requests and have two independent medical assessments that determine they are eligible
  • The request must always be initiated by the person themselves, with health practitioners who are treating the person and raise the issue subject to unprofessional conduct investigations

A single point of access will ensure medicines are kept and dispensed securely, that patients are provided clear information regarding administration, and ensure unused medications are returned and destroyed if not used, in line with the stringent controls.

For people too sick to travel, the pharmacy service will deliver them their medication and provide information on administration – and then collect any unused medication.

The pharmacy will report to the Voluntary Assisted Dying Review Board in accordance with the Act. The Review Board is being led by former Supreme Court Judge Betty King QC. Its role is to oversee the operation of the laws, reporting and ensuring high safety standards are met.

Last year, the Labor Government released the Voluntary Assisted Dying regulations, which set out the requirements around permits, the type of label affixed to the voluntary assisted dying medication and the locked box that it must be stored in.

The Voluntary Assisted Dying Implementation Taskforce is working with clinicians, health services and the community ahead of the Voluntary Assisted Dying Act commencing in June.

Quotes attributable to Acting Minister for Health Martin Foley

“The Alfred is one of Victoria’s leading hospitals. Having a single point of access for voluntary assisted dying is just one of the ways we’re making sure the model is the safest and most conservative in the world.”

“We’ve made voluntary assisted dying legal because a person’s quality of death is part of their quality of life – and everyone deserves a dignified choice at the end of their lives.”

“All of the guidelines are now in place for voluntary assisted dying to begin in June – and ensure people with a terminal illness who wish to end their lives with dignity can do so.”

Reviewed 19 August 2020

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