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Voluntary Assisted Dying Bill 2017

Date: 17/08/2017
What is being proposed?

The Victorian Parliament is considering introducing voluntary assisted dying legislation. The aim is to make it legal for a doctor to prescribe a lethal dose of a drug to a patient so the patient can end his/her own life. In limited circumstances, the doctor would be authorised to administer the medication. Neither of these practices is currently legal anywhere in Australia.

What is our response?

Cabrini Health does not support the introduction of voluntary assisted dying legislation in Victoria.

Together with the Australian Medical Association, Palliative Care Australia and the Asia Pacific Hospice Palliative Care Network, we believe that a procedure that has the sole intention of ending a patient’s life has no place in good clinical practice.

The Ministerial Advisory Panel has recommended 68 safeguards are included in the voluntary assisted dying process to protect vulnerable people. We believe that any process that requires 68 safeguards is inherently dangerous and is best avoided.

Opinion polls show that many people in the community believe you should have the right to end your life prematurely if you have a terminal illness and you are suffering. However, research shows that only 1 per cent of people who have a terminal illness actually express a desire for euthanasia. In Victoria, that means the number of people who are likely to choose such an option will be approximately 150 people per year. We are being asked to enshrine a major change in community values to meet a very small demand.

We are concerned that there has been no discussion as to how much such a process would cost, or where the funds will come from. The safety of people in the community, particularly those who are vulnerable, will rely on each of these safeguards being adhered to each and every time. Every single death will need to be reviewed to ensure compliance with legislative requirements. It is hard to justify the investment in a complex system to meet the needs of a few people when there are so many competing demands for the health dollar.

What do we recommend?

We recommend the Victorian Government should invest money and resources in extending the availability of specialist palliative care.

Palliative care is about living as much as it is about dying. It combines excellent medical and nursing care with practical, social, emotional and spiritual support for the patient and his/her family to help them live the best life possible.

Among the thousands of deaths our palliative care teams have witnessed, most patients’ symptoms are well-managed, they participate in decisions about their care such as which treatments they want to continue and which are too burdensome and should be stopped, and they die a peaceful death.

Many Victorians don’t have the same access to palliative care because of inadequate resourcing. Too often, referrals to palliative care are made when the person is close to the end of their life and death is imminent. This means patients miss out on the benefits palliative care can deliver throughout their treatment. Further, service coverage is patchy and not readily available to everyone. It is estimated that Victoria needs to spend an extra $65m per year to address the unmet demand.

More information

For information on Cabrini’s palliative care services, please visit: http://www.cabrini.com.au/patients-and-families/services/directory/palliative-care

The AMA position statement https://ama.com.au/system/tdf/documents/AMA%20Position%20Statement%20on%20Euthanasia%20and%20Physician%20Assisted%20Suicide%202016.pdf?file=1&type=node&id=45402

Palliative Care Australia position statement http://palliativecare.org.au/wp-content/uploads/dlm_uploads/2015/08/20160823-Euthanasia-and-Physician-Assisted-Suicide-Final.pdf

The Asia Pacific Hospice Palliative Care Network position statement http://aphn.org/aphn-statement/

Catholic Health Australia - Voluntary Assisted Dying Submission

For further information on voluntary assisted dying and euthanasia see, refer:

St Vincent’s Health Australia’s Assisted suicide fact sheet