We provide this information about voluntary euthanasia and how it relates to the law in Western Australia without asserting any moral judgement either for or against the matter.
What is an Advanced Health Directive?
In Western Australia, an Advance Health Directive (AHD) is a device governed by the Guardianship and Administration Act 1990 (WA) to enable a person to provide or withhold consent for certain specific healthcare, medical, surgical or dental treatment or procedures including life-sustaining measures and palliative care. In some other jurisdictions they are better known as ‘Advance Care Directives’.
An AHD is a written legal document which explains how you wish to be treated in the future should you become incapable of making informed decisions. They are the first port-of-call when a patient lacks capacity to consent to medical treatment. If you have an AHD, this will override any decisions made by your assigned Guardian if you were to lose capacity.
An Advance Health Directive allows a person to:
- set out values and wishes to guide decisions about their future healthcare and other personal matters; and
- set out what, if any, particular healthcare they refuse and in what circumstances.
If you are interested in having an AHD drafted to your personal needs, please contact Carter Dickens Lawyers on (08) 9408 5212 to arrange a consultation to discuss securing your future healthcare needs.
What is Voluntary Assisted Dying?
Voluntary Assisted Dying (VAD), also known as ‘voluntary euthanasia’, is defined in the Voluntary Assisted Dying Act 2019 (WA) as the “administration of a voluntary assisted dying substance and includes steps reasonably related to that administration.” Essentially, VAD means that eligible adults could ask for medical help to end their life if they have a disease or illness that is so severe it is going to cause suffering and their eventual death. The term ‘voluntary assisted dying’ emphasises the voluntary nature of the choice of the person and their enduring capacity to make this decision.
In December 2019 the Voluntary Assisted Dying Act 2019 (WA) was passed by the Western Australian Parliament.
Criteria and Eligibility for the Voluntary Assisted Dying Act 2019 (WA)
In terms of eligibility to access Voluntary Assisted Dying, one must satisfy the following criteria:
- Aged 18 years or over;
- Australian citizen or permanent resident who has been ordinarily resident in Western Australia for at least 12 months;
- They have been diagnosed with at least 1 disease, illness or medical condition that is advanced, progressive and will cause death; and, will, on the balance of probabilities cause death within a period of 6 months (or 12 months for neurodegenerative); and, is causing suffering that cannot be relieved in a manner that the person considers tolerable;
- They must have decision-making capacity in relation to voluntary assisted dying;
- The person must be acting voluntarily and without coercion;
- The person must have an enduring request for access to voluntary assisted dying.
Finally, to access voluntary assisted dying a person must be independently assessed as eligible by two medical practitioners. These medical practitioners must meet certain requirements and have undergone mandatory training. They may also refer the person for additional assessments if required.
During the process the person must make three separate requests for voluntary assisted dying: a first request, a written declaration and a final request. The written declaration must be witnessed by two people (who meet specific requirements as relevant legislation).
Relationship between the Voluntary Assisted Dying Act 2019 (WA) and Advanced Health Directives
You cannot make arrangements for VAD through an AHD. The Western Australian Legislature specifically amended the Guardianship and Administration Act 1990 (WA) to ensure AHDs will not have this power.
This was discussed at length in Parliament and they have offered the following reasoning in the Explanatory Memorandum for the Voluntary Assisted Dying Act 2019 (WA) Act:
“… The effect of this clause is to make it clear that voluntary assisted dying cannot be included in an advance health directive as a treatment decision in respect of a person’s future treatment for the purposes of Part 9B of the Guardianship and Administration Act 1990 (WA). Further, this clause also makes it clear that a treatment decision cannot be made under the Guardianship and Administration Act 1990 (WA) in respect of voluntary assisted dying.”
Essentially, despite legalising VAD, the circumstances have been significantly limited to only highly specific situations.
At Carter Dickens Lawyers, we have a fixed fee to prepare an AHD. If you require more information on the availability of AHDs to your situation, please do not hesitate to contact us on (08) 9408 5212 where we can arrange a free 15-minute phone consultation with one of our Lawyers.
Please note that the above is general information and should not be relied upon as legal advice. All situations are different and legal advice must always be tailored to the specific facts of your Legal Matter.