What does the latest NSW voluntary assisted dying legislation mean?

June 06, 2022 06:32 PM AEST | By Aditi Sarkar
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  • Assisted dying service involves giving medication to end the life of a person who is suffering from an unbearable terminal illness and upon the person’s own will
  • Recently, the Parliament of New South Wales (NSW) passed a bill on assisted dying
  • A person with merely a disability, dementia or mental health impairment will not be able to access voluntary assisted dying

Assisted dying service involves administering medication to end the life of a person suffering from an unbearable terminal illness upon the person’s own will. Not everyone with a terminal illness is eligible for assisted dying, and there are strict eligibility criteria for having an assisted death.

The service involves specific steps, medical assessments, and important safeguards to ensure a person is eligible and making the decision for themselves, without pressure from anyone else.

Recently, the Parliament of New South Wales (NSW) passed a bill on assisted dying entitled “An Act to provide for, and regulate access to, voluntary assisted dying for persons with a terminal illness; to establish the Voluntary Assisted Dying Board; and to make consequential amendments to other Acts.”

NSW is the last state to pass the voluntary assisted dying law, for which it received mixed reactions as some called it a historic moment for people, while some called it a dark day for NSW.

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Who is eligible?

According to the “Voluntary Assisted Dying Bill 2022” passed by the NSW government, the following are the major eligibility criteria for assisted dying:

  • An adult Australian citizen or a permanent resident of Australia, who at the time of making the first request, must have been ordinarily resident in New South Wales for at least 12 months
  • The person is diagnosed with at least one disease, illness or medical condition that is advanced, progressive and will cause death
  • The disease is causing suffering to the person that cannot be relieved in a way the person considers tolerable
  • The person has decision-making capacity concerning voluntary assisted dying, and the person is acting voluntarily and not because of pressure or duress

However, a person with merely a disability, dementia or mental health impairment is not accessible for access to voluntary assisted dying.

Eligibility for medical practitioners

A medical practitioner is eligible to be a coordinating practitioner or consulting practitioner for assisted dying of a patient under the following terms.

  • The medical practitioner must hold specialist registration or general registration with a practice of at least ten years
  • Must have completed approved training and met other requirements prescribed by the regulation for the purpose
  • He/ she must not be a family member of the patient
  • The medical practitioner does not know or believe that he/she will be a beneficiary under the patient's will or may otherwise benefit financially or in other material way from the patient’s death.

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NSW is the last state to pass this bill. Voluntary Assisted Dying is a sensitive issue that has been debated not just in Australia but across the world for ages. In many cases the religious beliefs, and morality come into play when discussing the topic. Many countries such as Switzerland, New Zealand have legalized voluntary assisted dying.


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