What does the latest Voluntary Assisted Dying Act mean to me? The recent case of Lily Thai has brought the Voluntary Assisted Dying Act 2021 SA (“VAD Act”) into sharper focus. This Act, introducing a formal euthanasia protocol, represents a significant shift in how we perceive and manage end-of-life decisions in South Australia. The VAD […]
What does the latest Voluntary Assisted Dying Act mean to me?
The recent case of Lily Thai has brought the Voluntary Assisted Dying Act 2021 SA(“VAD Act”) into sharper focus. This Act, introducing a formal euthanasia protocol, represents a significant shift in how we perceive and manage end-of-life decisions in South Australia.
The VAD Act allows individuals facing advanced, progressive, and life-limiting conditions to make an informed choice for a dignified death. It prioritises voluntary decision-making without any form of coercion. Alongside the VAD Act, an Advance Care Directive enables you to express your healthcare preferences for the future, covering medical treatment, living arrangements, and personal matters when you can no longer make those decisions due to your condition. However, it is important to note that current law prohibits including a provision for voluntary assisted dying in an Advance Care Directive.
Advance Care Directive
The Advance Care Directive allows you to appoint a trusted individual, your “Substitute Decision Maker,” who will make crucial decisions about your living arrangements and future medical care when you are unable to do so. This document allows you to specify your healthcare preferences, including binding refusals of certain treatments. Many clients use this section to convey their desire for compassionate care and focus on pain relief and comfort rather than pursuing extensive treatments in cases where recovery is unlikely.
Although the Advance Care Directive and the Voluntary Assisted Dying (VAD) system may contain similarities, an important distinction sets them apart. While the VAD system requires active participation in decision-making, the Advance Care Directive only becomes effective when you no longer possess decision-making capacity.
To proceed with the VAD system, your decision-making capacity is evaluated based on criteria in the VAD Act, such as understanding relevant information, retaining and weighing information in decision-making and effectively communicating your needs. Failing the criteria means you cannot pursue the VAD system, and your Substitute Decision Maker cannot act on your behalf in this regard.
From an estate planning perspective, it is crucial to recognize the role of the Advance Care Directive. While no document can replace your personal wishes within the VAD system, the Advance Care Directive serves as a comprehensive record of your healthcare and lifestyle preferences. This helps to ease the burden on your family and minimize stressful conversations about your unspoken wishes. Moreover, individuals considering the VAD system should ensure their other affairs are in order, including having an appropriate Will and other necessary documents, such as the Enduring Power of Attorney depending on their circumstances.
At our firm, we prioritise crafting Advance Care Directives that align with your wishes and comply with legal requirements. By establishing this document, you can have peace of mind knowing that your choices will be honoured even in challenging times. For specific guidance aligned with South Australian regulations, consult our experienced solicitors.