VICTORIA'S new voluntary assisted dying laws come in to effect on Wednesday but the community is still divided about the morality of the new laws.
After an 18 month implementation period, the new laws will give terminally-ill patients the right to request to choose the timing and manner of their deaths, subject to a raft of strict conditions.
About 100 doctors including GPs, cancer specialists and palliative care clinicians have been undertaking mandatory, specialist training ahead of the laws being enacted on June 19.
About a third of those doctors are from regional Victoria.
Pharmacists at the Alfred Hospital will be responsible for delivering voluntary assisted dying medications to approved patients across the state, ensuring they receive clear information about how to administer the drugs, and that unused medications are returned and destroyed.
"A person's quality of death is part of their quality of life - and everyone deserves a genuine, compassionate choice," said premier Daniel Andrews.
"This is the most conservative model of its kind in the world. We know that only a small number of people will choose to access voluntary assisted dying, but it will make a world of difference for those who do."
The state government expects about 150 Victorians will apply to use the laws each year.
It will be the first time in more than 20 years that Australia has had voluntary assisted dying laws. A scheme in the Northern Territory which came in to effect on July 1, 1996, and helped four patients end their lives was overturned by federal legislation in 1997.
While many in the community welcome the move to give dignity to the dying, the Catholic Church restated their opposition to the new laws in a pastoral letter signed by the Archbishop of Melbourne, the Most Reverend Peter Comensoli, Ballarat Bishop Paul Bird, and the bishops of Sale and Sandhurst.
They described the voluntary assisted dying legislation as "a new, and deeply troubling chapter of health care in Victoria".
"Many people support euthanasia in various forms, and some also express a belief in God. A number of the loudest voices, including some members of the Victorian Parliament, have called VAD a 'compassionate' response to suffering, and those who oppose VAD have been accused of lacking in compassion," they wrote.
"Contrary to this position, Pope Francis has encouraged ordinary Catholics everywhere to resist euthanasia and to protect the old, the young and the vulnerable from being cast aside in a 'throw-away culture.' Instead, Francis calls us to follow Christ by accompanying people with compassion, sharing hope not fear. In Victoria, we have entered a moment in which we are called to join this task.
"As pastors of the Catholic dioceses of Melbourne, Ballarat, Sale and Sandhurst, we feel a responsibility not just to say 'no' to VAD, but to give every encouragement to model a way of life that renders VAD unnecessary."
They said Catholic hospitals and residential care organisations had united to find ways to model excellent care for patients, and were committed to resisting calls to become involved in VAD.
"We object to the unnecessary taking of a human life;. we object to the diminishment of the love that can be given and received in the last days of our loved ones;. we object to the lack of adequate funding for excellent palliative care;. we object to state-sponsored practices that facilitate suicide; and most of all we object to the lazy idea that the best response our community can offer a person in acute suffering is to end their life."
Premier Daniel Andrews said Victoria's voluntary assisted dying model was the safest and most conservative in the world.
The Voluntary Assisted Dying Review Board will review every instance of voluntary assisted dying being accessed to ensure high safety standards are met.
More information on voluntary assisted dying is available here.