2021-2022 Victorian VAD Review Board Report

The annual Victorian Voluntary Assisted Dying Review Board Report has just been released. Read it for yourself or click here to read a summary.

581 First assessments and 492 Consulting assessments were conducted. 433 permits were issued (373 self-administration; 60 practitioner-administration). 349 substances for self-administration were dispensed. Of the 349 patients who were dispensed VAD substance for self-administration, 231 (66%) administered the medication. 38 patients required practitioner administration.

Death through VAD comprised 0.58% of the total deaths in Victoria over the same time period – this compares to 0.49% from the previous year.

Despite 618 doctors completing VAD training, only 185 (30%) have been involved in a case, and of the 326 doctors eligible, only 48 have joined the statewide community of practice – a peer support network for doctors involved in VAD provision.

The proportion of registered specialists who have completed VAD training is as follows: Medical Oncologists 47 of 297 (16%), General Practitioners 182 of 8,522 (2%), Neurologists 15 of 253 (6%), Respiratory Physicians 9 of 226 (4%), General Medical Physicians 17 of 591 (3%), Haematologists 7 of 220 (3%), Palliative Medicine Specialists 5 of 105 (5%) There is 1 neurologist located in a rural area trained to provide VAD assessments, and no respiratory physicians in rural areas.

81.2% of applicants were involved in palliative care at the time of applying, for a median duration of three months. 81.58% of all VAD applicants to-date have a malignant qualifying diagnosis, with lung cancer representing the largest tumour subtype (20.5%).

Four cases were identified as being non-compliant with the legislation: three being due to the Contact Person not returning unused substance within the 15 days after the applicant dying. There was one case where the person signing on behalf of the patient (allowed) also signed as a witness to that signing (not allowed). This was investigated and assessed as being due to an oversight, and no further action is being taken.
The VAD Review Board is positioning itself to provide recommendations during the upcoming review of the legislation, scheduled for the fifth year of operation of the Act (2023). Recommendations include: the ongoing advocacy for a change in the Commonwealth Criminal Code that impedes the use of telehealth for VAD assessments, consideration towards allowing medical practitioners and clinical staff to initiate discussions regarding VAD, the removal of the requirement to involve a second specialist when the applicant has a neurodegenerative condition with a prognosis of 6-12mo, consideration to a reciprocal approach to VAD eligibility with other Australian states and New Zealand, and removing the process requirement to apply for a separate practitioner administration permit should the applicant deteriorate and be unable to self-administer.