The government announced in yesterday’s Gazette that most of the provisions of the Voluntary Assisted Dying Act 2021, which passed parliament in an historic vote in June last year, would come into operation on January 31.
Other parts of the legislation which outline the establishment of a Voluntary Assisted Dying Review Board will come into operation on September 1.
The announcement means South Australians aged over 18 with a diagnosed incurable illness will be able to access legal euthanasia from January 31 – two months earlier than what was originally scheduled by the former Marshall Government, which had flagged a March 29 start date.
A government spokesperson told InDaily: “If we can explore any avenue to bring forward the implementation of the VAD Act even further than the end of January then we will absolutely do so”.
The new start date is still later than what advocates had called for, with Voluntary Assisted Dying SA pushing for the law to come into effect by December 2022 to ensure a maximum of 18 months between the passage of the legislation through parliament and commencement, similar to other states.
A committee tasked with considering how South Australia could implement the laws was only set up four months after the legislation passed, with former Health Minister Stephen Wade previously telling parliament that it was important to “take the time you need to plan and implement such an important initiative”.
Attorney-General Kyam Maher, who authored the legislation and pushed for its passage through parliament while in opposition, told InDaily in May that it was “not good enough” that South Australia would take longer than other states to implement euthanasia laws.
At the time, he said he was working with Picton to try to bring forward the implementation date.
Voluntary Assisted Dying SA vice president Anne Bunning told InDaily that advocates had hoped that the laws would start this year, so that people who wished to access voluntary assisted dying would not have to suffer over Christmas.
“We get requests every day from people asking ‘how do I access it (voluntary assisted dying)?’ and you have to say, ‘well, actually you can’t’,” she said.
“Every other state took 15 to 18 months from when their legislation went through parliament.
“I don’t understand really why we’re taking so long.”
Premier Peter Malinauskas told reporters this morning that there was “a lot of work to (do) to actually get this (legislation) up and running”.
He said the government was considering the regulatory regime and funding required to ensure voluntary assisted dying in South Australia is carried out safely and in accordance with the law.
“Clearly it’s very important,” he said.
“Since the election my government has worked hard to ensure that we take the parliament’s will and in many respects the people’s will and actually put it into action.”
A government spokesperson said they were pleased that the government was able to bring the legislation rollout date forward and provide certainty.
“The VAD Review Board to be appointed next month will play a key role in establishing the processes and procedures needed before the VAD Act fully commences,” they said.
“Key issues that take time to implement include installing a new IT system for the laws and the training and communication with doctors.”
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