After eight long years of campaigning Camden Haven advocate Janet Cohen feels a level of comfort after voluntary assisted dying (VAD) laws were introduced in NSW this week.
From Tuesday, November 28, an online portal opened explaining to patients and practitioners how to begin applying for access.
Ms Cohen, who was diagnosed with terminal cancer in 2015, said the new laws were vital in providing comfort and assurance to patients experiencing unacceptable levels of pain.
"Cancer can create a landscape of loss and it's so important to be able to be empowered including choice of treatment options and finally a say in how my life will end," she said.
"I want to die a 'good death' one that doesn't leave those closest to me with indelible memories of an end of life struggle with pain and suffering.
"I've known from quite early on that I wanted an assisted death."
NSW became the last Australian state to enact laws after legislation passed following a marathon debate in May 2022.
Port Macquarie MP Leslie Williams is a long-time supporter of the VAD laws and chaired the house when the historic Bill passed the Parliament of NSW on May 19, 2022.
"I know this is such a significant step for many people across the Port Macquarie electorate and I thank the more than 2,800 people who responded to my community survey in 2021 when the Bill was introduced into the Parliament," she said.
More than 90 percent of respondents to Ms Williams' survey supported the Bill.
Under the new laws, patients are required to make two requests to two different practitioners including one in writing.
With a GP shortage impacting regional Australia, there is concern the state will not have enough practitioners to meet demand.
However, Go Gentle Australia CEO Dr Linda Swan said NSW is starting with better doctor numbers than other states.
"We've been told around 150 health professionals have completed the VAD training, with a further 200 in the pipeline," she said.
"These are encouraging numbers. By comparison, when Victoria's law commenced only a handful of doctors had completed the training. In Western Australia it was around 20."
A Mid North Coast Local Health District spokesperson said the the locally based team are working closely with the NSW Voluntary Assisted Dying Care Navigator Service to support the community and clinicians.
Ms Cohen, who is a former manager of Sea Acres Rainforest Centre, urged local GPs and specialists to complete the training.
"The option of an assisted death should be seen as one of a suite of end of life services including treatment options and palliative care," she said.
"For the NSW VAD service to be a success it needs GPs and specialists to get on board, particularly in regional areas where access to VAD trained practitioners can be difficult for terminally ill patients who may have limited ability to travel."
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