Victorian Catholic Health Australia member organisations have affirmed they will not provide euthanasia services when the Voluntary Assisted Dying Act comes into effect in the state next week.
In the joint statement, the health and aged care providers – Cabrini Health, Calvary Health, Mercy Health, St John of God Health Care, St Vincent’s Health Australia and VMCH – said they had been working together to ensure a clear and consistent response to the act.
“Our services are committed to excellent end-of-life care and have been serving the Australian community in end-of-life care for nearly 130 years. Our approach is in accordance with the Hippocratic tradition of medicine: When our patients are dying, we assist them to die in comfort and with dignity,” the statement reads.
“We do this through commitments to: heal and never to harm; relieve pain and other physical symptoms of illness and frailty; address psychological distress; withdraw life-prolonging treatments when they are medically futile or overly burdensome or when a person wants them withdrawn; never abandon patients.
“We do not consider the prescription of a lethal substance to a person to help them end their own life, nor the administration of a lethal substance to a person by a health practitioner to end their life, are part of end-of-life care. Our position is consistent with the Australian Medical Association and the World Medical Association. It is these acts which will become legal under the name of ‘Voluntary Assisted Dying’ (VAD). As such, when VAD comes into effect, our services will neither provide nor facilitate it.”
Catholic Health Australia chief executive Suzanne Greenwood said its members have “provided excellent end-of-life care in Australia for nearly 130 years” and would continue to do so.
“While we will not be providing VAD, we know our facilities are operating in an environment where patients or residents may wish to explore this option. Our member organisations are committed to receiving all such enquiries in a compassionate and respectful manner,” Ms Greenwood said.
“Our members will work with patients and residents as they have always done – as valued partners – and examine their options with them. If people in our care wish to access VAD from other providers, our services will not impede them. We will provide release from care as well as transfer if they wish to access services elsewhere.”
Catholic Health and Aged Care Services Response to the ‘Voluntary Assisted Dying Act’ (Catholic Health Australia)