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Voluntary Assisted Dying

Position Statement

Our position

The Leukaemia Foundation has a bold shared goal of zero lives lost to blood cancer by 2035. To achieve this, we are unswervingly patient first – meaning the services we provide, research projects we fund, or issues we advocate for, have people living with blood cancer at the forefront of every decision we make.

We recognise assisted dying is a complex topic that can evoke strong opinions and we respect the rights of individuals to take a position on this important issue.

While we remain neutral on assisted dying, we recognise that to be patient first is to believe that everyone with blood cancer should have access to all the healthcare options they need.

Voluntary assisted dying is one aspect of end-of-life care. We believe the introduction of assisted dying across Australia’s states and territories doesn’t remove or replace the importance of accessing quality treatment and care, including palliative care.

It’s critical palliative care and end-of-life care for blood cancer patients is accessible and appropriate – no matter who, no matter

Any decisions involving end-of-life care should be made with appropriate healthcare practitioners in line with state law and requirements. Leukaemia Foundation staff, members and volunteers are not permitted under law to discuss voluntary assisted dying with patients and carers. If a patient or carer has questions about assisted dying, Leukaemia Foundation staff will refer them to the appropriate healthcare practitioners, in accordance with state law and requirements.

Frequently asked questions

What is Voluntary Assisted Dying?

Voluntary assisted dying (VAD) refers to the assistance provided to a person by a health practitioner to end their life. It includes: ‘self-administration’, where the person takes the VAD medication themselves (this is sometimes called physician-assisted suicide or dying), and ‘practitioner administration’, where the person is given the medication by a doctor (or in some Australian states, a nurse practitioner or registered nurse) (this is sometimes called voluntary euthanasia).

‘Voluntary’ indicates that the practice is a voluntary choice of the person, and that they are competent (have capacity) to decide to access VAD.

Where is Voluntary Assisted Dying (VAD) accessible in Australia?

In Victoria, Western Australia, Tasmania, Queensland, and South Australia VAD is operating, and is available in limited circumstances to people who meet the eligibility criteria.

VAD laws will commence operation in New South Wales on 28 November 2023. In this factsheet New South Wales’ VAD laws are discussed as though they are already operating.

VAD remains illegal in the Northern Territory and the Australian Capital Territory.

Each state has safeguards to ensure that VAD is only accessed by eligible people. As Leukaemia Foundation staff cannot participate in conversations relating to voluntary assisted dying, staff will refer people residing in a territory to the appropriate healthcare professionals to engage in discussions related to voluntary assisted dying.

Some of the key safeguards in all states are:

  • Restrictions on when health professionals can initiate a discussion or provide information to a person about VAD.
  • Requirements in some cases for additional specialist opinions to be obtained to determine if a person is eligible for VAD. An example is where it is unclear that a person has capacity.
  • Strict protocols governing the prescription, dispensing and disposal of VAD medications.
  • Any unused or remaining VAD medication must be returned (e.g. to the dispensing pharmacist).
  • Offences for anyone who encourages or persuades another person to request VAD, or take the VAD medication.
  • Oversight by independent Boards or Commissions in all states. Their roles include monitoring, reporting, and research.

Can Leukaemia Foundation staff, members or volunteers discuss assisted dying with a patient or carer?

No. Staff, members or volunteers are not permitted to initiate a discussion or discuss voluntary assisted dying broadly with a patient or carer. Any conversation regarding assisted dying should be had with the appropriate healthcare practitioner. Leukaemia Foundation staff will refer a patient to the appropriate healthcare practitioner if a conversation does arise.

There are strict laws, requirements and regulations that govern who can initiate, or have discussions about assisted dying.

  1. End of Life Law in Australia, Australian Centre for Health Law Research, QUT, June 2022
  2. Ben White, Lindy Willmott, Katrine Del Villar et al, ‘Who is eligible for voluntary assisted dying? Nine medical conditions assessed against five legal frameworks’ (2022) 45(1) University of New South Wales Law Journal 401-444. Katrine Del Villar, Ben White,
  3. Eliana Close et al, ‘Voluntary Assisted Dying by Practitioner Administration Is Not Suicide: A Way Past the Commonwealth Criminal Code?’ (2022) 29(1) Journal of Law and Medicine 29-141.

Find out how we’re campaigning for change

Explore our advocacy activities here