Lawyers say voluntary assisted dying scheme is consistent with current laws that allow a patient to refuse treatment

21st May 2019

The introduction of a voluntary assisted dying scheme in Queensland, which allows eligible people to self-administer medication that will end their lives, is consistent with existing laws that prioritise patient autonomy and would enable people to die in a dignified manner, says the Australian Lawyers Alliance (ALA).

“The law already clearly allows adults to choose to refuse life-sustaining treatment even if this refusal will result in death,” said Greg Spinda, Queensland President, ALA. “It is now uncontroversial at law that a competent patient can refuse life-sustaining treatment because the principle of autonomy takes precedence.

“Enabling individuals in some circumstances to access voluntary assisted dying would be consistent with the increasing focus on patient-centred care which allows competent patients to make such choices.”

In a submission to the inquiry by the QLD Health, Communities, Disability Services and Domestic and Family Violence Prevention Committee, the ALA supported the introduction of voluntary assisted dying scheme with a number of eligibility requirements, including the requirement that a person should have the capacity to access the scheme.

“The process to access voluntary assisted dying should be clear and include a number of safeguards to ensure that only eligible people can access the scheme, to protect vulnerable individuals and to protect members of the medical profession who choose to participate in the scheme,” said Mr Spinda.

The ALA supports the availability of counselling services for people wishing to access voluntary assisted dying services.

“However, we do not consider that it should be a mandatory requirement for medical practitioners to compel a person to participate in counselling before they can access voluntary assisted dying services,” said Mr Spinda. “We recommend that a board be created to oversee the voluntary assisted dying scheme and offences should be created to deter anyone from acting outside of the scheme.”

Tags: Queensland Health, medicine and law