The information below may help you to consider the care options that are available to you and the people who can support you to make decisions about your end of life care, in line with your values and wishes.
End of life care
If you are living with a life-limiting illness, it is important for you to understand your options for treatment and care, to make your wishes and preferences clear, and to safeguard your rights. Thinking about your future can help to reduce you and your family’s stress during times of difficulty. It can also help to have conversations with your family, friends, carers and your healthcare team regarding your wishes at the end of life.
Often people want to make the best of the time they have left, balancing the effects of treatment and their quality of life. These decisions are very personal and are based on what matters to them.
Care at the end of life can be provided in a range of health settings, including hospitals and aged care services, or at home with the support of health practitioners, including GPs, medical practitioners, nurses and allied health practitioners.
You can be referred to palliative care services if you or your decision maker agree to it, and if you have a progressive, life limiting illness.
Palliative care improves the quality of life of people and that of their families who are facing challenges associated with life-limiting illness, whether physical, psychosocial, social or spiritual.
Voluntary assisted dying is distinct from palliative care.
All people have the right to be supported in making informed decisions about their end of life care and to understand their medical treatment options including comfort and palliative care.
Your decision to seek information about or access voluntary assisted dying has no impact on your access to palliative care.
Palliative care will continue to be available if you are seeking access to voluntary assisted dying, right up until the time of your death. You will not have to choose one or the other.
Advance Care Directives
An Advance Care Directive empowers you to make clear legal arrangements for your future. It replaces the existing Enduring Power of Guardianship, Medical Power of Attorney and Anticipatory Direction with a single Advance Care Directive form. If you have previously completed one of these documents, they will continue to have legal effect unless you complete a new Advance Care Directive.
The Advance Care Directive allows you to:
- write down your wishes, preferences and instructions for your future health care, end of life, living arrangements and personal matters
- appoint one or more Substitute Decision Makers to make these decisions on your behalf if you are unable to do so in the future.
To create or update your Advance Care Directive, visit the Advance Care Directive webpage.
A desire to access voluntary assisted dying can be expressed in an Advance Care Directive however, under the Advance Care Directives Act 2013 (SA) this will not be considered a request for voluntary assisted dying. The Act states that people requesting voluntary assisted dying need to have decision making capacity throughout the entire process, to make sure their decision remains voluntary and consistent.
If you are thinking about or going through the process of requesting access to voluntary assisted dying, you may need support. Help is available from a range of sources including:
- your doctor and your healthcare team
- family, friends, and carers
- other support services.
Maintaining open communication with the people who are providing your health care is always important. You are encouraged to talk to your medical practitioner and other health practitioners about how end of life care might look for you. This can include discussions on your preferred palliative care approach, completing or updating an Advance Care Directive, planning for death and accessing voluntary assisted dying.
It is important to be aware that accessing voluntary assisted dying requires preparation and planning.
If you are thinking about requesting voluntary assisted dying, the first step is to ask a health practitioner (such as a GP, medical practitioner, nurse or allied health practitioner) for information about it.
Support from your family, friends, and carers
In addition to your healthcare team, your family, friends and carers can help you think through choices you may be considering at end of life, including voluntary assisted dying.
If you wish, a family member, friend or carer can go to your appointments with you and be part of your discussions about palliative care, voluntary assisted dying or planning for death.
Voluntary assisted dying may be a challenging and emotional topic for the people who want to support you. Every person is different, and it is not unusual to have some strained relationships. However, a family member, friend or carer cannot prevent you from accessing voluntary assisted dying if you wish to do so.
Other support services
Some people may find issues relating to voluntary assisted dying concerning or distressing. If reading the material on this website or thinking about voluntary assisted dying has raised some issues regarding grief and bereavement or personal crisis, the helplines and websites below provide support 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
- Visit the Lifeline website or call 13 11 14
- Visit our Bereavement Portal
- Visit the SA Health mental health services webpage for a range of services
- Call the Mental Health Triage Service on 13 14 65
- Call Kids Helpline on 1800 551 800