Personal Stories

VAD Eligibility Guilt

by Jane Morris

Guilt can strike in all shapes and forms and can be a very destructive emotion.

Many of you may have heard of ‘survivor guilt’. An example of this that comes to mind is that which occurs in the aftermath of bushfires. We hear reports of areas where there are scenes of massive destruction yet, inexplicably, one house will survive the carnage, totally unscathed. The initial feelings of luck and fortune experienced by the ‘survivors’ often rapidly dissolve into feelings of guilt as they acknowledge the enormity of the loss experienced by those around them.

Unfortunately, I have recently become aware of a very different type of guilt, “VAD eligibility guilt”. The eligibility criteria for the Victorian Voluntary Assisted Dying process are stringent, so stringent that they are considered, by many, as excessive. To ensure the successful passage of Victoria’s VAD legislation, these restrictive criteria had to be agreed to. It has been heartbreaking to learn that some people experience a sense of guilt that arises from the fact that they have been considered eligible for VAD, whilst others who suffer similar illnesses and comparable suffering, are considered ineligible. Sue suffers from a terminal illness and has been considered eligible for VAD. She is now in possession of the VAD medication and talks openly about her impending death.


“I feel so much for anyone with a debilitating disease, that does not qualify for Voluntary Assisted Dying. Fortunately, I have, but the fine line between what I have and have been able to access compared to others with similar suffering, but considered non-eligible for VAD, is extremely unfair.

The rules need to be looked at NOW and changed to give more people autonomy over their lives. I am one of the lucky ones but at times, when I read other stories, I feel so guilty as I consider having access to VAD has changed my life for the better, instantly! It takes away the pressure and worry about “how I am going to die”. Yes, life is precious, but death should be a welcoming calmness for everyone, not an excruciating painful nightmare.

I am going out with family and friends this week to celebrate my last birthday….it shall be fun…as I slowly slip down the abyss. Because I have my little black box, I can be relaxed and happy. Isn’t that how everyone should be able to face their impending death? At the time I choose to die I plan to have with me, Sullivan’s Cove Scotch (thanks to my wonderful Solicitor Tom) and the old rock group, ’The Choir Boys’ playing “Last night of my life”.

That’s what I think will be a good send-off.”

Inconceivably Sue considers herself to be lucky and feels guilty for her ‘good fortune’.
Now let me tell you, Sue suffers from Motor Neurone Disease, described as one of the worst diseases.  Sue will die soon.

Lucky? I think not.
Guilty? Oh Sue!    

This legislation was never intended to evoke such emotion and divisiveness.

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