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Eligibility and access to voluntary assisted dying: a view from Victoria, Australia
  1. Rosalind J McDougall1,
  2. Danielle Ko2,3
  1. 1 Melbourne School of Population and Global Health, The University of Melbourne, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
  2. 2 Department of Palliative Care, Austin Health, Heidelberg, Victoria, Australia
  3. 3 Department of Patient Safety and Clinical Excellence, Austin Health, Heidelberg, Victoria, Australia
  1. Correspondence to Dr Rosalind J McDougall, Melbourne School of Population and Global Health, The University of Melbourne, Melbourne, VIC 3010, Australia; rmcdo{at}

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In their analysis of the eligibility criteria for assisted dying in Canada, Downie and Schuklenk put forward a strong argument for the ethical defensibility of including mental illnesses and disabilities as underlying conditions driving a person’s request for assisted dying.1 In this commentary, we add a view on these debates from our home state of Victoria, Australia, where voluntary assisted dying has been legal since June 2019. We highlight the more conservative approach to eligibility in our setting compared with Canada, and argue for debates about eligibility criteria to be conceptualised as part of a broader discussion about access to assisted dying that includes clinicians’ roles and perspectives. In our view, clinicians’ perspectives may have a significant impact on individuals’ ability to access assisted dying, regardless of legislative or other changes made to any system. ‘Voluntary assisted dying’ (VAD) is the terminology used in our context, rather than Medical Assistance in Dying (MAiD), so we will use that term when referring to the Victorian system.

There are several key differences between the Canadian and Victorian approaches that are important in relation to the debates addressed by Downie and Schuklenk. First, the emphasis in Victoria is on patient self-administration of the VAD …

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  • Contributors RJM and DK conceptualised the article. RJM wrote the first draft and DK made substantive revisions.

  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests DK is a member of the Victorian Voluntary Assisted Dying Review Board. She has engaged in this research in her role as a clinical ethics researcher and palliative care specialist and not in her role as a member of the board. Any views expressed in this paper are not to be attributed to the board.

  • Provenance and peer review Commissioned; internally peer reviewed.

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