Eligibility and access to voluntary assisted dying: a view from Victoria, Australia

Journal of Medical Ethics 47 (10):676-677 (2021)
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Abstract

In their analysis of the eligibility criteria for assisted dying in Canada, Downie and Schuklenk put forward a strong argument for the ethical defensibility of including mental illnesses and disabilities as underlying conditions driving a person’s request for assisted dying.1 In this commentary, we add a view on these debates from our home state of Victoria, Australia, where voluntary assisted dying has been legal since June 2019. We highlight the more conservative approach to eligibility in our setting compared with Canada, and argue for debates about eligibility criteria to be conceptualised as part of a broader discussion about access to assisted dying that includes clinicians’ roles and perspectives. In our view, clinicians’ perspectives may have a significant impact on individuals’ ability to access assisted dying, regardless of legislative or other changes made to any system. ‘Voluntary assisted dying’ is the terminology used in our context, rather than Medical Assistance in Dying, so we will use that term when referring to the Victorian system. There are several key differences between the Canadian and Victorian approaches that are important in relation to the debates addressed by Downie and Schuklenk. First, the emphasis in Victoria is on patient self-administration of the VAD …

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