One thousand health professionals – most of them doctors and including leaders in geriatric and palliative care – have united to oppose a push by the states to allow telehealth appointments for euthanasia. Source: The Weekend Australian.
The states, all of which now have voluntary assisted dying laws, are seeking an exemption from the Philip Nitschke-era federal ban on the use of phone or internet to “counsel or incite” suicide or “promote” suicide methods.
States and euthanasia advocates argue the federal law frustrates access to VAD for regional patients with limited access to local doctors and specialists.
The issue is listed for discussion at the April 28 meeting of the Standing Council of Attorneys-General in Darwin, led by Queensland and supported by other states.
However, the 1000 medicos – including past senior figures in key professional bodies – have penned an open letter in The Weekend Australian warning it would create “great hazards and injustice”.
“Further relaxation of criminal codes to facilitate telehealth for VAD assisted suicide would remove protections owed those vulnerable to suicide under duress and in need of palliative care, aged care and mental health services, especially so in regional and remote Australia,” their letter says.
“It is oversimplistic and in breach of a patient’s rights and owed dignity in healthcare to imagine competence, informed consent, lack of coercion, mental illness and comprehensive health care or palliative care needs can be adequately assessed using telehealth by VAD doctors.”
One signatory, NSW geriatric care specialist John Obeid, said the changes would effectively force regional patients into VAD, due to the lack of geriatric and palliative services in their areas.
However, some doctors support amending the Nitschke law to exempt VAD telehealth, arguing it is not assisting suicide but rather managing end-of-life care.
South Australian palliative care specialist Roger Hunt said while telehealth for VAD consultations may not always be appropriate, it should be an option – as in other areas of medicine.
Doctors fight states’ push for telehealth VAD (By Matthew Denholm, The Australian)