Death toll growing in Victoria

The fourth report of Victoria’s Voluntary Assisted Dying Review Board has been released, and it includes the third round of statistics for Victoria’s euthanasia and assisted suicide regime.

The number of euthanasia and assisted suicide deaths increased in this period, which is unsurprising for these types of regimes: the death toll just keeps growing.

The report revealed:

  • 94 deaths occurred in the six months from July to December 2020, an increase from the previous six-month period, where 81 people died. Since the law commenced, there have been 224 deaths;
  • 53 more people - in addition to the 94 who have already died – have been given a dose of lethal drugs to take at a time of their choosing;
  • For a quarter of patients, the time between first and final request for assisted suicide was 11 days. For half the patients, the time between first and final request was 17 days;
  • 22 per cent of inquiries made to the Statewide Voluntary Assisted Dying Care Navigator Service came from family members.

As alarming as the high numbers are, what is even more alarming is some of the commentary from the Review Board.  In some parts of the document, the report sounds more like political spin than it does a report of an “independent,” oversight body.

Here are some quotes, just as an example:

  • “The Board continues to encourage people to initiate conversations about voluntary assisted dying early after being given a terminal diagnosis.” 
  • “[There] is opportunity for more medical practitioners to become involved in order to allow greater access for applicants across Victoria. The Board encourages medical practitioners to talk with their colleagues about the experience of being a coordinating or consulting medical practitioner. While it may be time consuming to undertake training and registration, many have reported it can also be extremely rewarding.

“The Voluntary Assisted Dying Act 2017 was designed to deliver the most conservative and safe legislation in the world, with 68 safeguards and a scrupulous oversight scheme in place. The Act is interpreted in a very strict way, and the Board continues to have a very low threshold for errors or inconsistencies in applications in order to maintain public safety.”