Explained: Voluntary Assisted Dying

Voluntary Assisted Dying (VAD) laws have now been passed in all Australian states. It’s a tough, but necessary, conversation in many circumstances. Here’s how it works.

On 28 November this year, VAD laws will come into effect in New South Wales, ending decades of emotionally charged debate.

Granting a person who is terminally ill, or in chronic agonising pain, the legal ability to medically end their life is to many the most human of kindnesses, while to others it represents a horrific abandonment of the Hippocratic oath.

But whatever your opinion, the NSW changes will mean that for the first time all Australian states have some avenue for VAD.

Crucially, VAD remains illegal in Australia’s territories, including the Northern Territory and Australian Capital Territory.

However, this may be changing in the near future after the passing of the Restoring Territory Rights Bill 2022 last December. This bill was introduced specifically to address the territories’ abilities to legislate VAD laws.

Although all states now have VAD laws, they are very strict and can only be accessed under extremely limited circumstances.

While the laws in each state differ slightly, most elements are common across Australia.

Eligibility criteria

To be eligible for VAD, the applicant must be aged 18 or older and be an Australian citizen or permanent resident. They must also have been resident in the state where they are applying for at least 12 months.

The person must make a request to a specialist doctor registered with their state’s Voluntary Assisted Dying Board.

This doctor will assess the person to determine first that they have the capacity to make the decision and that they are doing so voluntarily.

The applicant must have a terminal illness that will result in death within six months or a neurodegenerative disorder that will result in death within 12 months, as long as that disorder is causing unmanageable pain.

The same process is then repeated by a second independent doctor. After both are satisfied, the person may then write a letter to the board indicating that they wish to end their life, which must be witnessed by two people.

Another final written request must be made to the board five days later, which will be reviewed by the first doctor. If again the doctor is satisfied with the request, they can apply to the board for the applicant to be granted access to substances that will end the patient’s life.

The person can then choose whether to administer the drugs themselves or have a medical practitioner do it.

Do you support voluntary assisted dying? Why or why not? Let us know in the comments section below.

Also read: Assisted dying – a first-hand account

Brad Lockyer
Brad Lockyerhttps://www.yourlifechoices.com.au/author/bradlockyer/
Brad has deep knowledge of retirement income, including Age Pension and other government entitlements, as well as health, money and lifestyle issues facing older Australians. Keen interests in current affairs, politics, sport and entertainment. Digital media professional with more than 10 years experience in the industry.


  1. The VAD laws are so restrictive that DIY is the answer. The is a shocking state of affairs, as is the suffering experienced by those desperately ill eople who need VAD and can’t get it. Their stories are not printed in the media, just the successful ones.

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