As you’ll be aware, the Voluntary Assisted Dying Act 2017 came into effect on 19 June. The law allows eligible Victorians who are in the late stages of advanced disease and deem their quality of life to be intolerable, to request access to voluntary assisted dying.
With almost 11,000 deaths from cancer each year in Victoria, we’re preparing for questions to our cancer nurses through our 13 11 20 cancer information and support line.
In the lead up, we’ve prepared as best we can to understand our roles and responsibilities as health professionals. While we continue to speak with people around things like palliative care and general end of life conversations, to date, we have not had any explicit calls about this legislation or access to Voluntary Assisted Dying more specifically.
We understand that this is unchartered waters not only for our cancer nurses, but for all Victorians. It’s a complex and evolving space and there’s much to learn about how voluntary assisted dying will be navigated.
We recognise there are differing personal and professional views on voluntary assisted dying and we respect the right of people and organisations to hold such views.
Our role always has been and will continue to be, to support cancer patients and their families facing end of life and to assist them in making informed decisions about their care. A terminal diagnosis of cancer raises many concerns for patients and families, and we provide information about palliative care, emotional support and practical concerns such as financial and legal issues.
Cancer Council Victoria also provides education and training to health care professionals to enhance core skills in clinical communication. We’ve partnered with the Centre for Organisational Change in Person-Centred Healthcare and Deakin University to deliver Clinical Consultation Skills Retreat 2019. The course focuses on delivering bad news, managing mismatched expectations, determining goals of care and discussing end-of-life care.
Currently any specific requests we receive from people regarding voluntary assisted dying, will be referred to the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) website and to the navigators on (03) 8559 5823, or we’ll suggest they ask a health practitioner for information (such as a general practitioner (GP), specialist doctor or nurse).
We encourage you to refer patients and their families to contact Cancer Council to speak to an experienced cancer nurse on 13 11 20 for cancer information and for end of life support, or to visit the ‘Get support’ page of our website.
Three fact sheets – “What Is Cancer?”, “Coping with Cancer Fatigue” and “Caring for Someone with Cancer” – are now available to download in bilingual versions in Arabic, Chinese (Simplified), Greek, Hindi, Italian, Tamil, Tagalog and Vietnamese.
New editions now available: Understanding Cervical Cancer and Understanding Stomach and Oesophageal Cancers. Understanding Secondary Bone Cancer – an online fact sheet (available to download, not otherwise in hard copy)