Legal protection and offences
The Voluntary Assisted Dying Act 2021 (the Act) is the legal framework for Queensland’s voluntary assisted dying process. It provides protections for people involved in the voluntary assisted dying process. It also clearly sets out offences for breaching the Act.
Non-compliance with the Act can also be dealt with as a matter of professional discipline.
Legal protection for people involved
The Act provides protection from criminal liability for someone who:
- in good faith, does something or fails to do something that assists a person who they believe is requesting access to or accessing voluntary assisted dying in accordance with the Act, or
- is present when the voluntary assisted dying substance is administered.
The Act also provides protection from civil and criminal liability for a person who, while acting in good faith and without negligence, does something or fails to do something in accordance with or for a purpose under the Act.
Legal protection for registered health practitioners and ambulance officers
The Act provides protection from civil and criminal liability for registered health practitioners, ambulance officers (and volunteers), and students under the Health Practitioner Regulation National Law (Queensland) who, acting in good faith, withhold life-sustaining treatment where:
- the person doesn’t request it, and
- they believe on reasonable grounds that the person is dying after administration of the voluntary assisted dying substance (either self-administered or practitioner administered) in accordance with the Act.
Offences under the Act
Healthcare workers should be aware of the offences in the Act. Penalties include imprisonment and monetary fines. These offences cover:
- unauthorised administration of the voluntary assisted dying substance
- inducing another person to request or revoke a request for voluntary assisted dying
- inducing self-administration of the voluntary assisted dying substance
- giving the Voluntary Assisted Dying Review Board false or misleading information
- making a false or misleading statement
- falsifying documents
- recording or disclosing personal information.
The Voluntary Assisted Dying Review Board
The Voluntary Assisted Dying Review Board (the Review Board) is an independent statutory body established under the Act.
The Review Board’s role is monitoring the operation of the Act and compliance by practitioners with the legislation—for example, reviewing cases, making recommendations, and promoting continuous improvement. The Review Board can refer matters to other agencies, including:
- Queensland Police Service
- the Registrar-General of Births, Deaths and Marriages
- the State Coroner
- the Queensland Health Ombudsman (who can refer them to matters to the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (Ahpra))
- the Director-General of Queensland Health.
Criminal Code Act 1995 (Cth)
The Criminal Code Act 1995 (Cth) prohibits discussing suicide via a carriage service (e.g. phone, telehealth or the internet). While the Queensland Voluntary Assisted Dying Act 2021 states that voluntary assisted dying is not suicide, this cannot change the interpretation of the Commonwealth laws. This means that some discussions between a person and their doctor about the voluntary assisted dying process will need to happen face-to-face. Guidance will be provided for health practitioners.
Read the Guidance for practitioners—Discussions about voluntary assisted dying over carriage service (PDF 1805 kB) for more information.