WA’s voluntary assisted death laws have been in place for a year. Did they achieve their goal?

For a year, Angela Cooney has been doing the opposite of what doctors are normally trained to do: helping people end their lives.

Dr Cooney is often their first step to accessing Western Australia’s voluntary medical assistance in dying scheme, and in many cases also their last.

For some of the more than 171 West Australians who have used the scheme since it came into effect exactly a year ago, she has been there to help them and their families through their final moments.

“It’s absolutely anathema to a lot of doctors,” she said.

“It’s not easy, and I stay up at night mentally rehearsing the script, how it’s going to go, to make sure I’m doing it right. And I live in fear that I’m wrong so that person suffers any further.”

But Dr Cooney said the value of the service far exceeded the personal cost of administering it.

More support than expected

Based on the most recent data, 682 people took the first step in the first 12 months of WA’s Voluntary Assisted Dying (VAD) laws, of which around a quarter ultimately used the program to end their their days.

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