The information below will help you get ready to talk to your doctor about voluntary assisted dying. You may find this useful if you are thinking about voluntary assisted dying and need some further information.

Talking about voluntary assisted dying with your doctor may feel difficult. This information will give you some ideas about how to prepare, what to say and what to expect from your doctor.

Making an appointment with your doctor to talk generally and gather information about voluntary assisted dying is not the same as making a formal first request. Your doctor may have lots of knowledge about the process or may ask you to contact the NSW Voluntary Assisted Dying Care Navigator Service who can answer your questions.

Making the appointment

You should make a long appointment with your general practitioner (GP) or your specialist doctor (for example, neurologist or oncologist).

If you are in hospital, you should let the staff know you want to talk to your doctor about voluntary assisted dying, so they can arrange a time for the doctor to discuss it with you.

Asking for information about voluntary assisted dying or making general enquiries does not mean you have started the process for voluntary assisted dying. It is a way to help you get the information you need to make a decision, if and when you are ready. Talking with your doctor will also help you understand if you are likely to be eligible for voluntary assisted dying.

What can I do before the appointment?

Before your appointment it may be helpful to:

  • talk to your health care provider about supports that are available to you including palliative care; and any questions you have
  • think about the reasons you are considering voluntary assisted dying
  • think about any symptoms you are experiencing (for example, pain, fatigue, or difficulty breathing)
  • think about your questions or fears about your disease or medical condition and ask what supports are available to you
  • consider taking a trusted person with you to the appointment. This could be a family member, friend, carer or mob
  • let the doctor or receptionist know if you need an interpreter or speech pathologist at the appointment
  • think about any questions you want to ask your doctor or anything else you think they should know.

If you can, you may also want to write notes about the points above to take to the appointment with you. You could also print this webpage to take with you or have it ready to show on your device.

What to expect from my doctor

When you ask about voluntary assisted dying, your doctor may ask you some questions to understand what you would like to know. They may also ask you more questions if they are unsure if you are talking about voluntary assisted dying.

Some questions your doctor may ask include:

  • How long have you been feeling like this?
  • What are your main concerns?
  • What do you know about your disease and how it is progressing?
  • What do you know about your treatment options? How do you feel about these options?
  • What help with your symptoms would make your life more comfortable?
  • What practical help would make your life more comfortable?
  • Have you heard of palliative care? How do you feel about receiving palliative care support?

Your doctor may also:

  • encourage you to talk with someone you trust about your situation and how it is affecting you
  • arrange a meeting with your carer, family, friend or support person, if you agree.

What if my doctor cannot or will not help me?

Only some doctors in NSW can provide voluntary assisted dying. If your doctor is unable to help you access voluntary assisted dying, this may be because they do not support voluntary assisted dying. This is known as having a ‘conscientious objection.’ If this happens, the doctor must tell you straight away that they cannot help you access voluntary assisted dying.

A doctor may also be unable to help you if they do not meet the necessary eligibility criteria because they:

  • have not been a doctor long enough or hold the right qualifications (education),
  • have not completed special (mandatory) training, or
  • have another reason (such as not being available).

In these cases, your doctor or health practitioner may refer you to someone else who can help. You can also contact the free NSW Voluntary Assisted Dying Care Navigator Service. The care navigators can help you find a doctor and answer your questions.

What happens if I make the decision to start the voluntary assisted dying process?

If you believe you meet all the eligibility criteria and decide that voluntary assisted dying is the right choice for you, you need to make a formal request to a doctor who is eligible to help you. This is called a ‘first request.’

The first request must be during a medical appointment. The medical appointment may be face-to-face or during a videoconference appointment where the doctor can see and hear you. You can use a communication tool or gestures if you need help to communicate your request.

Your first request must be clear and not ambiguous. This means the doctor must be able to understand that you are asking for voluntary assisted dying.

If you change your mind, you can pause or stop the voluntary assisted dying process at any time.

If the doctor is eligible and agrees to support your first request, they will become your ‘coordinating practitioner’ and will support you through each step of the voluntary assisted dying process.

More information about the voluntary assisted dying process

Where to get more information

You can get more information about voluntary assisted dying from:

The information on this page was prepared with support from the Victoria Department of Health. It has been used with permission.

Current as at: Tuesday 28 November 2023