The first person to use Victoria’s euthanasia laws has been given permission to have a medically assisted death.
The permit was granted some weeks ago, according to reports in the media.
However, it remains unclear if the person has taken the step of gaining access to the medication that could end their life.
The Department of Health and Human Services has not released any details about the permit.
In a statement, a spokesperson said, “The Department respects the privacy of patients accessing voluntary assisted dying and their loved ones.”
“We cannot confirm details about doctors and people accessing voluntary assisted dying.”
However, the statement said that the assisted dying model Victoria has adopted, the most conservative in the world, is up and running.
“The Victorian model for the Voluntary Assisted Dying system is working. We know that doctors are talking to patients about voluntary assisted dying and are carrying out assessments.”
The government has appointed ‘navigators’ to help interested members of the public negotiate the system.
The navigators have been feilding enquiries over recent weeks.
The department’s spokesperson said the laws are “giving people at the end of their life a genuine and compassionate choice over the manner and timing of their death.”
There is no expiry date on the permit to have a medically assisted death. The medication can be accessed when and if the person chooses, and the person can decide not to access it at all.
When accessed, the medication, which is mixed by a small team at Melbourne’s Alfred Hospital, is delivered to the user in a locked box.
Voluntary assisted dying became legal in Victoria on 1 July this year, after passing in parliament in 2017. The laws had the support of Premier Daniel Andrews.
Patients must meet strict criteria to qualify for voluntary assisted dying.
To be eligible, the person must be 18 years of age or older, and they must have lived in Victoria for at least 12 months.
They must have a terminal illness and expect to live no longer than six months, or 12 months if the person has a neurodegenerative illness such as motor neurone disease.
Those interested in accessing voluntary assisted dying must find a doctor with the appropriate qualifications to determine if they are ‘eligible’. A second doctor then also has to determine if the person is eligible.
If deemed eligible, the patient then has to put their request in writing, and at least nine days later, they must write a second request.
On receiving the final request, the doctor will apply for a permit to prescribe the medication that can be used to end the patient’s life.
It is this permit that has been issued for the first time.