Western Australia euthanasia rates hits 0.81% in first 5 months

On 24 November 2021, the Minister for Health, the Hon Roger Cook, told the Legislative Assembly that 50 people had “completed the process under voluntary assisted dying" by which he means that 50 people had died by assisted suicide or euthanasia using a lethal poison prescribed and supplied under the Voluntary Assisted Dying Act 2019.

This equates to a rate of 0.82% of all deaths being deaths by assisted suicide or euthanasia.

This is already 64% higher than the Victorian rate for January-June 2021 – after two years of it Act operating and 34% higher than Oregon after it Act operating for 23 years.

There are several factors that could be leading to this higher rate of deaths by assisted suicide and euthanasia compared to Oregon and Victoria.

Deaths by euthanasia and assistance to suicide in the six months January to June 2021 represent over 0.5% of all deaths in Victoria for that period. It took Oregon 21 years to reach that rate!

Where euthanasia is available as well as assisted suicide the international evidence suggests that there will be a significantly higher take up rate overall, with most people choosing euthanasia over assistance to suicide.

The initial rate of 0.81% in Western Australia is closer to the 1.0% rate in Canada in 2017 – the first year of legalised euthanasia. By 2020, the rate of euthanasia deaths as a percentage of all deaths had reached 2.45%. Although Canada allows assisted suicide as well as euthanasia, “less than seven” cases in both 2019 and 2020 were assisted suicide. Canadian practice overwhelming uses euthanasia.

Unlike in Victoria, the Act allows a medical practitioner to initiate a conversation about euthanasia or assistance to suicide without any indication that a person has even considered it or would be likely to consider it without such prompting.

Additionally, the Act attempts to conscript all medical practitioners into facilitating euthanasia and assistance to suicide by mandating that if a person makes a request for euthanasia or assistance to suicide the medical practitioner must either accept the request and begin the assessment process or refuse the request and hand them a 16 page promotional pamphlet which includes contact details for the Statewide Care [sic] Navigator Service which is funded to facilitate access to euthanasia and assistance to suicide.

Australian Care Alliance