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7.2.1 Voluntary Assisted Dying
Voluntary assisted dying enables a person in the late stages of advanced terminal disease access to prescribed medication that will bring about their death at a time they choose. Only people who meet certain conditions will be eligible for voluntary assisted dying. The term ‘voluntary assisted dying’ emphasises the voluntary nature of the choice of the person and their enduring capacity to make the decision.
Voluntary assisted dying is administered and managed by the States under state-based legislation.
Under the legislation in the States, there are strict eligibility criteria that must be met in order to access voluntary assisted dying, including that a person has been diagnosed with a terminal medical condition that is expected to cause death, in the vast majority of cases within six to twelve months, and is causing suffering to the person that cannot be relieved in a manner that the person considers tolerable.
A person accessing voluntary assisted dying must be over the age of 18 and meet citizenship and relevant residence requirements. Medical consultations required by the legislation prior to accessing assisted dying may be paid for by DVA if the veteran has a Gold Card or they relate to an accepted condition, as they will consist part of the treatment for the condition.
In order to access voluntary assisted dying a person must have ‘decision making capacity’. For this reason, mental health conditions cannot be taken to contribute to a decision to seek assisted dying, except in limited cases where a mental health condition specifically contributed to the terminal condition (for example, where alcohol use disorder contributed to liver failure).
Cause of death
The terminal disease, illness or medical condition that was the grounds for the person accessing voluntary assisted dying will be recorded as the cause of death. For DVA purposes in relation to death claims, staff are not to consider an act of voluntary assisted dying to be a suicide. The death is to be considered to be a result of the underlying terminal condition that caused the person to seek assisted dying.
Death certificates will record the underlying disease as the cause of death and (in most jurisdictions) will not show whether a person accessed voluntary assisted dying. In those jurisdictions that do show voluntary assisted dying as a cause, it is the underlying disease that is considered to be the cause of death and the underlying cause will also be shown on the death certificate.
There are no required changes to existing claims assessment policies or procedures.
- Compensation entitlements for dependants will be assessed with reference to the terminal condition set out on the client’s death certificate. Where the cause of death is an accepted disability (or subsequently determined to be service-related) the dependants will be eligible for compensation according to usual death claims processes.
- Official commemoration of the deceased, should a client be eligible due to the official cause of death being service-related, will continue to be assessed in line with current practice.