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Twenty apply to use SA's assisted dying pathway

Twenty people have begun the process of accessing South Australia's voluntary assisted dying regimen in the first month of the new laws.

SA Health says six people have also progressed to being granted a permit to access the necessary medication to end their lives.

No details have been released on the number of people who have gone on to administer the medication.

The new provisions came into force at the end of January after state parliament passed the legislation in 2021.

That was the 17th attempt in more than 25 years to get voluntary euthanasia laws enacted.

The assisted dying system includes a provision that people wishing to die must be a South Australian resident for at least 12 months.

A terminal diagnosis and a life expectancy of less than six months, or 12 months for a person with a neurodegenerative disease, must be confirmed for a patient to access the procedure.

The laws also require patients to show they have decision-making capacity and are capable of informed consent, and to undergo an assessment by two independent medical practitioners.

They must have their request verified by independent witnesses and be experiencing intolerable suffering that cannot be relieved.

A patient will be required to make three separate requests, including one in writing.

SA Health said on Thursday that 20 people had now made that first request.

If all the requirements have been met, a final review is done before someone can apply for a permit to ensure the application complies with the safeguards set out in the legislation.

Once a permit is granted, the patient can obtain medication for self-administration, or, in certain cases, administration by a doctor.

When the new system began, Attorney-General Kyam Maher said the "historic milestone" would bring comfort to many South Australians and their families.

"South Australians with terminal illnesses will now have the choice of dying with dignity, a right that was denied to too many for far too long," he said.

SA Health also confirmed that 41 doctors had so far completed the mandatory voluntary assisted dying training, while a further 47 had registered to do so.