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Tuesday, December 5, 2023

Compassionate laws give more choice to Queenslanders

ALMOST 600 Queenslanders have commenced the voluntary assisted dying (VAD) process since landmark legislation was introduced this year, according to the first annual report released this week.

Queensland’s VAD laws provide a rigorous system of checks and balances to ensure eligible people who are suffering and dying are supported to make an informed decision about ending their life, on their own terms.

The Voluntary Assisted Dying Review Board’s first annual report shows the Review Board reviewed all completed requests to ensure compliance with the requirements of the Voluntary Assisted Dying Act 2021 (the Act).

As at 30 June, 318 doctors and nurses had applied, completed training, and become authorised voluntary assisted dying practitioners.

In the first six months, 591 people commenced the process, and of these, 245 terminally ill people died from administration of a VAD substance.

Half (49 per cent) of people accessing VAD services in Queensland live outside of metropolitan areas.

Minister for Health, Mental Health and Ambulance Services Shannon Fentiman said the State Government is committed to ensuring that VAD is accessible to all who meet the eligibility criteria, and that it is delivered in a way that respects the patient’s autonomy and dignity.

The annual report shows that VAD is a safe, accessible and compassionate option for Queenslanders who are dying and suffering

Minister for Health, Mental Health and Ambulance Services Shannon Fentiman

“I am grateful to the Review Board for their careful assessment of every completed request, which assures Queenslanders that the service is being closely and independently monitored,” she said.

“I would like to thank the state’s 318 authorised practitioners for delivering transparent, compassionate and accessible end-of-life care.

“I would also like to thank the dedicated advocacy groups and passionate individuals who fought for this legislation.”

The most common diagnosis for people who accessed VAD in Queensland was cancer (78 per cent). Other diagnoses included end stage renal and liver disease, as well as neurodegenerative and cardiovascular diseases.

According to the report, the age range of people accessing VAD in Queensland was 26 to 95 years old, the median age was 73, and 56 per cent were male.

Voluntary assisted dying is underpinned by a cohort of committed and compassionate authorised practitioners who work tirelessly to enable timely and considered access by eligible Queenslanders.

Chair of the Voluntary Assisted Dying Review Board Associate Professor Helen Irving reassured Queenslanders that VAD laws are working as intended and that they are safe, accessible, and compassionate.

“I would also like to extend my thanks on behalf of all members of the Review Board to those who shared their experiences,” she said.

“These insights demonstrated the genuine care and sensitivity shown to them, and the relief it has provided them.   

“We express our sincere condolences to the family and friends of those who have died and acknowledge their loss as they grieve.” 

The QVAD Support and Pharmacy Service also played an important role by providing information and support to more than 1,800 people across Queensland.

The death of an elderly man who was not eligible for VAD, but ingested an oral substance prescribed to a VAD-eligible person known to the man, has been referred to the Coroner.

Queensland Health is finalising an investigation into this incident, including circumstances where a person transitions from self-administering a VAD substance to having it administered by an authorised practitioner.

A copy of the investigation will be provided to the Coroner when complete.

Keep up with the latest news in Cairns and the Far North, and check out some of our top stories this week: Indigenous artwork on show at Warrina Lakes and New laws allow naming of alleged sex offenders.

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