Introduction: Most Australian jurisdictions have passed voluntary assisted dying (VAD) laws, with some regimes already in operation. Inequitable access to assisted dying in regional communities has been described internationally. Although regional access to VAD has been identified as a concern in Australia, to date, it has been understudied empirically. Western Australia (WA) was the second Australian jurisdiction to pass and implement VAD laws. Due to the vast geography of WA (and the potential for such geography to exacerbate regional access inequities) several initiatives were introduced to try and mitigate such inequities. This paper aims to explore the effectiveness of these initiatives and report on regional provision of VAD in WA more generally, by drawing on the early experiences and reflections of key stakeholders.
Methods: 27 semi-structured interviews were conducted with 29 participants belonging to four main stakeholder groups: (1) patients and families; (2) health practitioners; (3) regulators and VAD system personnel; and (4) health and professional organisation representatives. Interviews were transcribed verbatim and analysed using inductive thematic analysis.
Results: Data analysis led to the description of four main themes: the importance of the Regional Access Support Service (RASS); the need for local providers; the role of telehealth in VAD provision; and the impact of distance.
Conclusion: Early experiences and reflections of key stakeholders suggest that while many of the regional initiatives implemented by WA are largely effective in addressing regional