Voluntary Assisted Dying in Victoria: Why Knowing the Law Matters to Nurses
Nursing Ethics, 2020
14 Pages Posted: 26 Oct 2020 Last revised: 9 Feb 2021
Date Written: September 1, 2020
In 2017, Victoria became the first state in Australia to pass legislation permitting voluntary assisted dying. Under this law, only those people who are near the end of their lives may access voluntary assisted dying, and because many of these people require nursing care to manage the progression of their illness or their symptoms, it will invariably have an impact on nursing practice. The Victorian law includes a series of procedural steps as safeguards to ensure that the law operates as intended. To support people who choose voluntary assisted dying and to practice safely within boundaries of the law, nurses must be aware of these requirements and how they operate. However, there are often gaps in nurses’ legal knowledge. This was demonstrated in an article that aimed to inform nurses about the operation of Voluntary Assisted Dying Act 2017 (Vic) but contained several errors and misstatements of the law. Our article corrects these errors and discusses how the law is intended to be applied by revisiting the fictional case of Chloe – a woman with a terminal illness who is seeking voluntary assisted dying. As the Voluntary Assisted Dying Act 2017 (Vic) also protects nurses from liability if they act in accordance with its provisions, we conclude that sound knowledge and understanding of its operation support nurses to provide the safe, comprehensive and compassionate care their patients deserve at the end of life.
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