Voluntary assisted dying will be available to eligible South Australians from 31 January 2023.
Voluntary assisted dying is a process that enables an eligible individual to voluntarily access and self-administer, or in some circumstances have a medical practitioner administer, a medication that will cause their death, in accordance with the steps and process set out in the Voluntary Assisted Dying Act 2021 (the Act).
It is another end of life choice available to eligible South Australians as part of high-quality, person centred end of life care.
To be eligible to access voluntary assisted dying in South Australia, a person must be assessed by a Coordinating Medical Practitioner and Consulting Medical Practitioner. A person must also meet as meeting all the criteria listed below:
- they are 18 years old or older
- they are an Australian citizen or permanent resident
- they live in South Australia and have lived in South Australia for at least 12 months at the time of making a first request
- they have decision making capacity in relation to voluntary assisted dying
- they are acting freely and without coercion
They must also have been diagnosed with a disease, illness or medical condition that meets all the criteria listed below:
- it is incurable, including if it can be managed but not cured
- it is advanced in its trajectory
- it is progressive, meaning that they are experiencing an active deterioration and will continue to decline and not recover
- it will cause death
- it is expected to cause death within six months, or 12 months if it is a neurodegenerative disease
- it is causing suffering that cannot be relieved in a manner that they consider tolerable.
Mental health conditions and voluntary assisted dying
The Voluntary Assisted Dying Pathway is not available in South Australia to a person living with a mental health condition or disability without this person having been diagnosed with a terminal illness that meets the criteria outlined above.
We acknowledge the significant distress and limitations on a person’s activities that can be associated with a mental illness and encourage people to access care, treatment, and support services.
We encourage you to discuss any concerns about your mental health treatment and your recovery progress with your GP or by calling your mental health support service if you are already engaged with one. You can also visit the Head to Health website which can help you to find professional support.
South Australian Voluntary Assisted Dying Pathway
The process to request access to voluntary assisted dying is set out in the Act. It includes many safeguards to ensure only eligible people access voluntary assisted dying, and to protect vulnerable people from coercion, abuse and exploitation.
Only the person wanting to access voluntary assisted dying may initiate discussions with health practitioners about voluntary assisted dying. A request cannot be made on somebody else's behalf by a family member, friend or carer.
At no time is a health practitioner allowed to initiate a conversation or discussion regarding voluntary assisted dying with a patient. This is to ensure that the request is completely voluntary and made without coercion.
A health practitioner who has a conscientious objection has the right to refuse to participate in voluntary assisted dying.
If a person wants to request access to voluntary assisted dying, they will need to be assessed by a suitably qualified medical practitioner who will determine if the person is eligible. If the person is eligible, the process is repeated with a second medical practitioner who will need to conduct another assessment. The medical practitioners will make sure the person is making a fully informed decision and is aware of the palliative care options also available to them.
If the person making the request wishes to proceed, a written declaration witnessed by two independent individuals is required to confirm an informed, voluntary, and enduring decision to access voluntary assisted dying.
On receiving a final request, the medical practitioner will prescribe a medication that the person may use to end their life at a time of their choosing. The person must administer the medication themselves, unless they are physically unable to do so or digest the medication, in which case their medical practitioner may apply for a Practitioner Administration Permit.
Visit the Voluntary Assisted Dying Pathway page to view a detailed step by step guide to the process.
There are 70 safeguards embedded in the Act to ensure voluntary assisted dying can only be accessed by people who are eligible, providing one of the safest voluntary assisted dying pathways in the world.
The Act ensures that a person’s decision to access voluntary assisted dying is voluntary and provides clear guidance for how health practitioners can lawfully support their choice. The Act provides for and regulates access to voluntary assisted dying in South Australia by:
- establishing clear eligibility criteria
- a request and assessment process, including requirements for medical practitioners
- a voluntary assisted dying permit process which authorises the prescribing and dispensing of the voluntary assisted dying medication
- establishing the South Australian Voluntary Assisted Dying Review Board
- safeguards including medication monitoring, practitioner protections, offences, and a five-year review.
Key safeguards in the legislation include:
- a person making a request to access voluntary assisted dying must have decision making capacity in relation to voluntary assisted dying
- a person making a request to access voluntary assisted dying must make a decision that is voluntary and made without coercion
- demonstration that the choice to request voluntary assisted dying is enduring
- registered health practitioners are prohibited from initiating a discussion about voluntary assisted dying with a patient
- requirements relating to the qualifications and training of participating medical practitioners
- record keeping and reporting requirements.
Some people may find issues relating to voluntary assisted dying concerning or distressing. If reading the material on this website or thinking about voluntary assisted dying has raised some issues regarding grief and bereavement or personal crisis, the helplines and websites below provide support 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
- Visit the Lifeline website or call 13 11 14
- Visit our Bereavement Portal
- Visit the SA Health mental health services webpage for a range of services
- Call the Mental Health Triage Service on 13 14 65
- Call Kids Helpline on 1800 551 800