Recent reporting shows that a growing number of people are dying by assisted suicide and euthanasia in the state of Victoria, Australia. But rather than express alarm at the rising numbers, some officials are saying that the number of people opting for death is a sign that the law is “working,” and they’d like to see even more people die by these methods.
Assisted suicide and euthanasia are allowed in Victoria under the Voluntary Assisted Dying (VAD) law. Bioedge reports that since the law’s implementation in 2019, a total of 912 people have died by assisted suicide and euthanasia — 775 by assisted suicide, in which the patient administers the lethal dose himself, and 137 by euthanasia, in which the doctor assists the person. Reportedly, 306 of those people died in the year from June 2022 to June 2023.
Julian Gardner, head of the VAD program, has complained that laws restricting euthanasia are preventing even more people from dying by this method.
“The Board are [sic] concerned that a significant proportion of applicants die before they obtain the substance. Applicants may not realise that the approval process can be lengthy and leave their request too late in the progression of their illness,” he wrote in the VAD annual report presented in state parliament in August.
Premier Dan Andrews countered that while the numbers are “good,” he doesn’t believe regulations should be changed. “They’re not the most adventurous laws in the world and some people would like them to be changed, they’d like them to be broader. We don’t think that there is a need to change those settings. We’ve struck a balance and … it is a good thing that more and more Victorians are confident enough and know enough about the system that they can assess it.”
Currently, medical practitioners in Victoria are prohibited from initiating a VAD discussion with their patients. According to the Australian Associated Press, a peer-reviewed study conducted this summer found that this restriction was a “barrier” for patients and that many study participants felt “muzzled” or “silenced” by the law.
As often happens once assisted suicide and euthanasia are legalized, there is now a push for the removal of the restrictions and a further expansion of the law. Suggestions include allowing telehealth approval appointments, allowing doctors to broach the subject with patients, and expanding the list of eligible providers who may facilitate VAD deaths.