Close to 200 Victorians have used voluntary assisted dying laws to end their lives since they were introduced a year ago, with numbers increasing by 50 per cent over the last six months.
Figures contained in the third report of the Independent Voluntary Assisted Dying Review Board which was tabled in parliament on Tuesday show 124 people with a terminal illness used a prescribed medication to end their lives in the first half of the year.
The report shows that 348 people were assessed for eligibility between January and June, 272 people applied to access the laws, and 231 permits were issued.
Fifty-five people accessed the laws to end their lives between June and December 2019.
People who sought to access the laws in the last six months were aged between 32 and 100 with an average age of 71.
Thirty-eight per cent of applications were from regional Victoria.
Of those who ended their lives 78 per cent had cancer, 15 per cent had a neurodegenerative disease and seven per cent had untreatable diseases including pulmonary fibrosis, cardiomyopathy or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
The number of medical practitioners trained and registered to support voluntary assisted dying increased by 30 per cent from the first six months.
“In the past six months, access to voluntary assisted dying has become more streamlined,” Board Chairperson Betty King said.
“There are more doctors on board and essential support services have expanded, especially in regional and rural Victoria.”
One application was referred to the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency for non-compliance because of an administrative error by a medical practitioner.
The review showed that the laws were working, health minister Jenny Mikakos said.
“Our voluntary assisted dying laws are giving Victorians who are suffering an incurable illness at the end of their lives a compassionate choice,” she said.
NSW lagging in dialogue
It comes as a NSW report released by the consumer group Council on the Ageing revealed a lack of planning around end of life, including palliative care and end of life issues.
The report, Dignity, Respect, Choice: Planning for the Final Chapter, reveals that the topic is still taboo for many older people, who struggle to talk to their families about what they want for the end of their lives.
“Most of our respondents agreed that as a community we don’t discuss death and dying enough,” COTA NSW CEO Meagan Lawson said.
Among its recommendations for the government are funding community education on palliative care and end-of-life issues and developing strategies to increase death literacy in the community.
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