Tue. Aug 16th, 2022

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

Dr Cooney is often their first step in accessing Western Australia’s voluntary assisted dying scheme, and in many instances, also the 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, in their final moments.

“This is absolutely anathema to a lot of doctors,” she said.

“It’s not easy, and I lie awake at night rehearsing in my mind the scenario, how it’s going to go, to make sure I do it right. And I live in fear of getting it wrong so that that person might suffer more.”

But Dr Cooney said the value of the service far outweighed the personal toll of administering it.

Take-up bigger than expected

Based on the most recent data, 682 people took the first step in the initial 12 months of WA’s voluntary assisted dying (VAD) laws, with about a quarter ultimately using the scheme to end their lives.

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