Doctors demand changes to WA euthanasia legislation

More than 90 per cent of West Australian doctors, both for and against euthanasia, want palliative care access improved (Bigstock)

West Australian doctors are demanding changes to the state's draft euthanasia laws to bring its safeguards into line with those in the Victorian legislation. Source: WA Today.

A survey of more than 1500 medical practitioners conducted by the Australian Medical Association (WA) found more than 90 per cent wanted WA’s laws – which will be debated by the Legislative Council next week – to be similar to Victorian laws which came into effect in June.

According to survey, which AMA (WA) president Andrew Miller said was the only definitive research on WA’s Voluntary Assisted Dying Bill, doctors had significant doubts about the proposed legislation, irrespective of their position on euthanasia.

“The AMA and doctors in Western Australia put an enormous amount of work into looking at the detail of this bill and we have very strong concerns as a profession about the equity of it, about the safeguards, and about the workability of the bill,” he said.

“Whether they are for or against voluntary assisted dying philosophically, more than 90 per cent of doctors are insisting that there be demonstrated equitable access to palliative care for patients at the same time as voluntary assisted dying is offered.

“[Patients] may not want the palliative care, but it must be available to them if this regime is to be introduced.”

Of four key safeguards included in the Victorian legislation but overlooked in the drafting of WA’s laws, a majority of doctors surveyed believed they should be introduced in WA:

  • 79 per cent think a specialist in the patient’s disease should be involved in the euthanasia process;
  • 82 per cent think a patient should be informed by an independent specialist in their disease about treatment options before they can access euthanasia;
  • 54 per cent think registered health practitioners should be prohibited from suggesting euthanasia to a patient; and
  • 63 per cent believe patients or their family should be able to sue for negligence if euthanasia goes wrong.

The release of the survey coincided with the launch of an AMA (WA) campaign aimed at urging voters to tell their politicians to take their time with the legislation.

“We’ll be telling voters that politicians are paid to consider legislation, and have a look at how long they take and how much they think about it and what amendments they provide in the detail,” Dr Miller said.

“And to ask their government why is this something less than what was offered in Victoria? Why is it different? And what palliative care do I have?”

FULL STORY

WA doctors demand changes to dying laws to protect patients (WA Today)

RELATED COVERAGE

Voluntary assisted dying: Australian Medical Association WA survey outlines doctors’ demands (The West Australian)

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