Western Victoria Primary Health Network (PHN) is encouraging general practitioners and other health services in the region to properly prepare for the new voluntary assisted dying laws which come into effect from 19 June this year.

In 2017, Victoria became the first state in Australia to pass voluntary assisted dying laws. The Voluntary Assisted Dying Act 2017 provides a legal framework for people who are suffering and dying to choose the manner and timing of their death.

Western Victoria PHN Chief Executive Officer, Dr Leanne Beagley, said it was essential GPs, nurses and other relevant health practitioners were fully informed about the new laws, the rights and obligations of both themselves and their patients.

“I encourage general practices to start developing policies and processes to help their staff with the new laws. This is important even if they are not planning to participate in voluntary assisted dying,” Dr Beagley said.

Advance Care Planning Week – from 1 to 5 April – is also a timely reminder for individuals and their clinicians to think ahead and consider future care directives.

“With nearly 20 per cent of people living in the Western Victoria PHN region now aged 65 or over, advance care planning is an essential component of health care for our communities” said Dr Beagley.

“Advance care planning, like voluntary assisted dying, is about the need for clear and beneficial conversations between patients and their health practitioners.”

“Support services are available throughout our region to help people start those important conversations and identify their options,” Dr Beagley said.

In addition, the Victorian Healthcare Association is developing a model of care for health services to support the implementation of the new voluntary assisted dying laws and has hosted a series of presentations across the State. 

The Victorian Department of Health and Human Services has also released a range of comprehensive information that outlines the specifics of the laws and safeguards to guide consumers and the community. These are available from its website: https://www2.health.vic.gov.au/hospitals-and-health-services/patient-care/end-of-life-care/voluntary-assisted-dying/community-and-consumers

“While health professionals are not required to participate in voluntary assisted dying, a person may make a request to any general practitioner. GPs and other health practitioners need to know their role to comply with the legislation,” said Dr Beagley. Further information for GPs is available on the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners website.

“Western Victoria PHN is also available to help health professionals in our region be fully informed. I urge them to contact our staff if they require additional assistance in preparation for the implementation of the new laws,” she said.

Advance Care Planning support in western Victoria