DWDQ April Update 2023

Voluntary Assisted Dying – The First 3 Months

In March, DWDQ Committee members attended the final meeting of the Voluntary Assisted Dying (VAD) Implementation Committee. The implementation team confirmed that so far, 490 medical practitioners have applied to be authorised VAD providers. Requests for VAD have come in from all parts of the State, and practitioners have been able to fly out to remote areas to meet with patients and family. 

Now that the initial implementation is well underway, from now on the VAD Program Unit within QLD Health will provide oversight and act as a resource for health care workers and patients. Keep an eye on their website for some planned patient-centred videos that talk you through each step of the process. As always, it’s the patient who must make the request and the patient who’s in control every step of the way.

Positive feedback

To date, demand has been higher than anticipated. We won’t know actual figures until the first planned report of the QLD VAD Review Board later this year. So far, about 80% of initial enquiries to the QVAD Support Service have come directly from patients. We’ve heard incredibly positive feedback and comment from patients and their families and friends about how helpful this service has been. Despite the challenges of distance, the QVAD Pharmacy support workers have achieved delivery of the VAD substance direct to the patient within 2 business days, 95% of the time. 

The QLD VAD Review Board has had 3 meetings this year, and is reviewing cases to assess how the service is working, and to identify any systems issues. 

Naturally there are questions. This is all new! We’ve had enquiries from people who are not eligible as the law still stands. How do we offer support then? At present, people with dementia as their sole diagnosis are not eligible for voluntary assisted dying as they cannot make informed consent right throughout the process. Should there be some discussion about this?  And what happens when some-one requesting VAD can’t meet the residency requirements for their State – the law allows an exemption (Section 10f). But should the States discuss the option of amending these requirements, given that voluntary assisted dying is now legal in all the States, and may soon be legalised in the Territories? 

What’s ahead for DWDQ

Emails and phone calls to DWDQ continue! It’s always helpful to hear your questions and feedback. We’re so grateful to have an amazing network across the State, volunteers who’ve been able to act as support and a friendly local face to patients embarking on this process. Thanks to you, and the generous donations we receive, we’ve been able to be part of this early stage of VAD implementation and to continue helping it operate smoothly.

Commonwealth Criminal Code Reform

You may remember that this Commonwealth law prohibits using a “carriage service” to discuss suicide. This means that doctors cannot use telehealth as a part of the VAD process. Although the QLD law firmly states that VAD is NOT suicide, there’s a potential contradiction between State and Commonwealth laws. This matter is on the agenda for the next meeting of State and Commonwealth Attorneys General. DWDQ wrote to our QLD AG, Ms Shannon Fentiman, to express our appreciation of her continued support for a resolution. Each State Dying with Dignity group has contacted their own AG.