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Voluntary Assisted Dying update – Regulations introduced setting out some of the specifics

Michael Gorton AM, Felicity Iredale

The Voluntary Assisted Dying Regulations 2018 (the Regulations) have now been finalised under the authority of the Voluntary Assisted Dying Act 2017 (the Act) and will commence on 19 June 2019.

The Regulations provide the appropriate forms required to apply for various permits issued under the Act, as well as the wording of the permits themselves. The permits relate to the access to and administration of the voluntary assisted dying substance (the Substance). The Regulations also prescribe requirements for labelling and storing the Substance, as well as accreditation requirements for interpreters translating on behalf of interested persons with non-English speaking backgrounds.

What do the permits allow?

Under the Act, a person accessing voluntary assisted dying may be issued with a self-administration permit or a practitioner administration permit. The default position is the issue of a self-administration permit unless the person is physically incapable of self-administering the Substance.

A self-administration permit authorises the person specified in the permit to obtain, possess, store, use and self-administer the Substance. On the other hand, a practitioner administration permit authorises the co-ordinating medical practitioner to prescribe and supply the person with a specified dose of the Substance. The practitioner is also authorised to possess, use and administer the Substance in the presence of a witness upon receiving a request from the person for administration, provided the person is physically incapable of self-administration.

How can I identify the Substance?

The Act requires any pharmacist who supplies the Substance to attach a written label statement to the relevant package or container. The label will clearly state “This is a voluntary assisted dying substance”, the name of the person who is subject to the permit and the type of permit. The Regulations also prescribe the additional text that must be included on the statement, which includes a number of warnings, dangers and storage requirements.

What are the storage requirements?

The Act provides that any person to whom the Substance has been dispensed must store the Substance in a locked box that satisfies the prescribed specifications. Under the Regulations, the prescribed specifications are that the lock box is:

  • constructed of steel;
  • not easily penetrable; and
  • lockable with a lock of sturdy construction.

Organisations should therefore be aware that where the Substance is dispensed to a person with a self-administration permit, that person may have the lock box in their possession on their premises. This may raise a number of internal safety concerns regarding who may have access to the lock box. Further, if the death of that person occurs, there are serious penalties for the failure of the designated contact person to return the lock box to the dispensing pharmacy. It is therefore important that relevant organisations, such as those with clinical or residential facilities, ensure they have appropriate policies and practices in place for staff to manage persons with access to the Substance, for example a requirement that the lock box be kept with other dangerous medicines and subject to the same protocols.

How can I check if an interpreter has the appropriate accreditations? 

The Act requires any interpreter who assists persons in relation to either accessing or requesting access to voluntary assisted dying, to be accredited by a prescribed body. The Regulations define these prescribed bodies as the National Accreditation Authority for Translators and Interpreters Ltd and Speech Pathology Australia.

For more information, please contact Michael Gorton AM, Principal on (03) 9609 1505 or Felicity Iredale, Lawyer on (03) 8602 7254.

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