Questions about regional access and transparency of euthanasia deployment in South Australia

An advocate for voluntary assisted dying has questioned the transparency and accessibility of the implementation of euthanasia in South Australia.

Jane Qualmann, who is based in Mount Gambier in the southeast of the state, hosted the new Voluntary Medical Assistance in Dying Review Commission, but expressed concerns about other issues.

“There hasn’t been a lot of transparency in terms of the implementation process and what actually happened,” she said.

“There just isn’t a lot of information.

“I was talking to some nurses at Flinders Medical Center a few months ago, and they asked me about voluntary assisted dying (VAD) and what’s going on, and they didn’t find a lot of information on the SA Health website.”

Ms Qualmann asks for more information for terminally ill regional South Australians.(ABC South East SA: Grace Whiteside)

Ms Qualmann says she felt the audience only heard “barely necessary”.

“When there is no transparency, or very little transparency, a lot of misinformation can be spread,” she said.

“Most [information] that comes out, the better it is for the implementation process, and it makes the community more confident.

“It also helps those who are afraid of VAD to feel more informed about the process, that it’s not as scary.”

Ms Qualmann doesn’t have much faith in the January rollout.

“Not just for me, but for a lot of people, we question that,” she said.

Availability of regional general practitioners

Ms Qualmann said more information was vital for terminally ill patients, especially in the regions.

“There was a comment when reading the bill … it was a concern that it would be easier to access VAD in the city, rather than in the region,” she said.

“There is a need to release more information, especially for regional areas, so that we are confident that they will roll out in late January.”

Ms Qualmann’s concerns centered on the availability of GPs.

“It takes us a long time to get into a doctor,” she said.

“A doctor can conscientiously object to talking to a patient about VAD.

“If our GP says, ‘Sorry, I can’t talk to you about this, I dutifully object’, then we need to find a new doctor.

“Now it could be a six, eight, 12 week waiting list to get in to see someone else.

“So are there doctors trained in the regions for VAD, or will it be necessary to go to town?”

Recruitment in progress

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Senator Jane Hume talks about her father, who used Victoria’s physician-assisted dying laws.

Health Minister Chris Picton said he was “committed” to implementing VAD “as quickly as possible, in the safest way possible, and [make it] as accessible as possible.

The government has committed $18 million over five years to the program, with rollout confirmed for January 31, 2023.

“The implementation date is continually being reviewed and if there is a way to bring it forward safely, we absolutely will,” Picton said.

A man in a navy blue suit and black square glasses looks at the camera with a serious expression
Chris Picton says training for practicing physicians is key to enabling regional access. (ABC News: Evelyn Manfield)

“Updates will continue to be provided in the run-up to implementation.”

Mr Picton noted that the government was working to ensure that all eligible South Australians, including those in regional areas, “have access to information about the program and services”.

“A crucial element will be the training of medical practitioners to enable regional access which will intensify over the coming weeks,” he said.

New pharmacists and care navigators are hired and trained.

A group of pharmacists will facilitate the provision, education and safe disposal of medications, while a VAD care navigator service will provide information, facilitate connections and support referrals.

About Norman Griggs

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