Public hospitals cautious on assisted dying

Doctors will be able to conscientiously object to assisted dying (Bigstock)

Most of Victoria's major hospitals are refusing to say whether they will allow their clinicians to prescribe euthanasia drugs when the practice is likely legalised in June 2019, The Age reports.

While private hospital The Epworth has revealed it is considering participating – and big Catholic providers have ruled it out – it is unclear whether patients at public hospitals will be able to seek an assisted death from willing hospital doctors.

A vote in the state's upper house last week paved the way for Victoria to become the first state to legalise voluntary euthanasia. The bill is to be sent back to the lower house, which has already voted in favour of the legislation once, for final approval.

The bill will give some terminally-ill Victorians the right to end their lives. Doctors can conscientiously object to being involved, or refer patients on.

But many large public health providers are yet to decide if they will permit their doctors to prescribe euthanasia drugs. There will be an 18-month implementation period to nut out many practical details, including what lethal drug will be used.

The operators of the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, Royal Melbourne Hospital, Austin Hospital, Monash Medical Centre, Box Hill Hospital, Geelong Hospital and Frankston Hospital would not comment.

But Epworth HealthCare has established a working group that will advise the hospital board whether it should consider allowing willing doctors to participate in euthanasia.

Epworth's chief medical officer, Professor Emeritus John Catford, said the working group would consider a number of issues around "end of life", and would likely make a decision by around March next year.

"Obviously a very important dimension is how one can implement a conscientious objection," Professor Catford said.

He said he had surveyed doctors about the role Epworth should play in assisted dying, and received a mixed response.

Australian Medical Association Victorian president Dr Lorraine Baker said there was still work to be done to understand how the legislation would be implemented. Dr Baker said she was concerned that some patients, particularly the elderly, may be coerced by their family to request euthanasia.


Victorian hospitals cautious on allowing doctors to prescribe euthanasia drugs (The Age)


Anglican Archbishop hopes state will now show greater interest in palliative care (Catholic Weekly)

Greens' Richard Di Natale wants national voluntary euthanasia laws (Sydney Morning Herald)

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