On 1 January 2023 the legislation passed almost 15 months prior will come into effect in Queensland. Currently in Australia the services can be accessed in Western Australia, Victoria and Tasmania, where the legislation has already come into effect.
Prior to the introduction of the new legislation, it was illegal to assist even a terminally ill individual ending their life by their own choice. Those who did attempt to assist were able to be criminally charged under two possible sections of the Criminal Code.
Those who assist prior to the legislation coming into effect could face charges of manslaughter or aiding suicide. Both of these offences have maximum penalties of life imprisonment.
The Voluntary Assisted Dying Act 2021 (Qld) was passed in September 2021 by the Queensland Government. Whilst it has taken a significant period of time for the legislation to come into effect it has allowed Queensland Health to put in place the necessary clinical and administrative processes that will be required moving forward.
It had first been predicted when the legislation passed that the laws would not come into effect until January 2023 as significant processes would need to be created and introduced around the legislation once it was in effect.
The processes will ensure that individuals who make the choice are getting access to high quality, safe, accessible and compassionate services to assist in their choice.
Recent models completed by Queensland Health indicate that there may potentially be around four hundred (400) terminally ill adults who will make use of the new legislation within the first twelve (12) months of it coming into effect.
To be eligible for the voluntary assisted dying service individuals must:
- Be at least 18 years of age;
- Have the capacity to make decisions;
- Fulfil a residency requirement;
- Have an eligible condition. The condition must be advanced and progressive, be causing intolerable suffering and be expected to cause death within twelve (12) months;
- Be acting of their own volition – it must be a voluntary decision that has been made without any coercion on the individual.
An individual seeking to use the service once it is available will be assessed by two doctors who must complete their assessments independently and separately. There will be a requirement that three different requests must be made by the individual and there must be atleast nine (9) days in between the first request and last request.
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