Increase in Victorian euthanasia deaths

·2-min read

The number of Victorians using voluntary assisted dying has increased by about one third.

There were 401 people who used the procedure to end their lives between July 2021 and June 2022, up from 310 the previous year.

A voluntary assisted dying (VAD) review board report found the legislation is operating safely and applications from eligible patients rose 22 per cent.

"The number of people seeking to access voluntary assisted dying continues to increase. This is a further indicator of the success of the system," chairman Julian Gardner wrote in the report.

However, four cases were technically non-compliant with the law.

In three instances contact people did not return substances left over from the procedure to authorities fast enough, while in an isolated case one person signed for the medication as both the applicant and witness.

"We are confident the risks identified through the initial public debate on the legislation have not eventuated, and the system overall continues to operate safely," the report said.

Patients cannot legally consult with doctors about the procedure over telehealth because VAD is still in the commonwealth criminal code so the board will advocate to change that.

"The law as it exists creates barriers to access to care and, in some cases, imposes unreasonable travel demands on people suffering from life-ending medical conditions," it said.

Since assisted euthanasia was implemented in Victoria in 2019 almost 60 per cent of those who used it were aged 65 to 84 and about eight per cent were aged 18 to 54.

Thirty-seven per cent of those who applied in the last three years resided in regional Victoria, even though just 22 per cent of the state's population live in regional areas.

The board received feedback some patients were actively discouraged from exploring assisted dying by health services or other individuals.

The Northern Territory first introduced euthanasia laws in the mid-1990s but was overturned by the federal government.

Victoria then became the first state to legalise euthanasia, followed by Western Australia.

Queensland, NSW, Tasmania and South Australia have also passed legislation allowing the procedure.