Avant Position Statement - Voluntary Assisted Dying

Avant media

Tuesday, 26 October 2021

Legislation word dictionary

Avant acknowledges the broad range of views held by our members on the topic of voluntary assisted dying. We recognise that it is a complex and personal issue.

Avant believes that at the core of any framework should be the notion of voluntariness, for patients and practitioners.

In jurisdictions where voluntary assisted dying is legal, participation is a matter for individual conscience, to be exercised within the context of acceptable standards of professional conduct and within the law.

Any legislative framework for voluntary assisted dying should provide the following protections:

  1. That a doctor is not required or compelled to comply with a patient’s request, or to be involved in voluntary assisted dying at all.
  2. That a doctor should not face any criminal, civil, administrative or disciplinary action for refusing to participate, or for choosing to participate.
  3. That a doctor is immune from criminal and civil liability, and disciplinary action for providing treatment that causes death if they have acted in accordance with the requirements of the legislation in good faith and without negligence.

Legislation should not include a prescriptive requirement for referral in the case of conscientious objection. The Medical Board of Australia’s ‘Good Medical Practice: A code of conduct for doctors in Australia’ (Code of Conduct) outlines a doctor’s rights and obligations regarding conscientious objection. They are:

Being aware of your right to not provide or directly participate in treatments to which you conscientiously object, informing your patients and, if relevant, colleagues of your objection, and not using your objection to impede access to treatments that are legal.

Avant supports this section.

Avant also supports national consistency of approach and terminology in voluntary assisted dying legislation across the country. Having multiple and inconsistent laws governing the same topic across the one country can be detrimental to doctors and patients. It is burdensome for doctors who need to appreciate the nuances of each law if they are to practise in that area and misunderstandings could increase their medico-legal risk. This is particularly the case for doctors who have cross-border practices. For patients, it means that they experience varying levels of access or eligibility to health care depending on the state or territory in which they reside.

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