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Talking to patients about voluntary assisted dying

Discussing voluntary assisted dying

Only medical practitioners and nurse practitioners can initiate a conversation about voluntary assisted dying.

Unless the healthcare worker is a medical practitioner or nurse practitioner, the person must clearly and unambiguously ask the healthcare worker about voluntary assisted dying for the healthcare worker to be able to discuss it with them. Otherwise, the healthcare worker could be in breach of the Act by initiating a conversation.

What to do if a person asks about voluntary assisted dying

Healthcare workers can provide general information about voluntary assisted dying and how to access it at the person’s request.

Regardless of their views about voluntary assisted dying, healthcare workers who are registered health practitioners have obligations under the Act to provide the person with information to enable them to access voluntary assisted dying.

The person does not have to use the term ‘voluntary assisted dying’, but the person must be clear about what they are asking.

Examples of how a person may raise voluntary assisted dying

"Can you help me die?"
"I want to access voluntary assisted dying."
"I would like to die on my own terms. How can I access voluntary assisted dying?"
"I want euthanasia."

Once the person clearly requests information about voluntary assisted dying, the healthcare worker can provide general information if they feel comfortable doing so.

If the person clearly wants to start the process to access to voluntary assisted dying (the first request), the healthcare worker can provide the person with:

What to do if a person makes a first request to access voluntary assisted dying

A first request is when a person asks a medical practitioner for access to voluntary assisted dying.

Only medical practitioners can receive a first request and begin the voluntary assisted dying process. If medical practitioners receive a first request for access to voluntary assisted dying, they have obligations under the Act.

Other healthcare workers can refer the person to QVAD-Support or another medical practitioner who can help them start the process.

Advance care planning and voluntary assisted dying

Conversations about voluntary assisted dying may arise in the context of broader discussions about advance care planning and end-of-life care. However, a request for voluntary assisted dying will not be valid if:

  • a person requests voluntary assisted dying in an advance health directive or other advance care planning document
  • a substitute decision-maker requests voluntary assisted dying on behalf of another person.

Advance care planning documents and substitute decision-maker authority only come into effect when a person loses decision-making capacity. A person who does not have decision-making capacity in relation to voluntary assisted dying is not eligible for voluntary assisted dying.

Download the Advance care planning and voluntary assisted dying information sheet for consumers (PDF 313 kB).

Working with interpreters

A person may use an interpreter to make a first request to access voluntary assisted dying. The QVAD Handbook provides more information on how to work with interpreters.

Lunch and learn: How to discuss voluntary assisted dying with people

Last updated: 12 May 2023