Avant Position Statement - Voluntary Assisted Dying

May 25, 2017

There have been several attempts over the last twenty years to introduce voluntary assisted dying legislation in Australia, many of which have failed by slim majorities. Voluntary assisted dying is permitted in several jurisdictions overseas, including the Netherlands, Switzerland, Belgium, Canada, Washington, Oregon and California.

  1. We recognise that our members have a range of strongly-held views on this topic – some are strongly supportive and some equally strongly against.

  2. Because of this, Avant does not take a position on whether or not physician-assisted dying should be permitted at law.

  3. We believe that participation or otherwise in any voluntary assisted dying regime is a matter for individual conscience, to be exercised within the context of acceptable standards of professional conduct and within the law.

  4. Any legislative framework must incorporate sufficient protections for those doctors who choose to participate, and those who choose not to participate.

  5. Legislation should clearly outline the processes to be followed and doctors’ obligations at a high level with further detail in guidelines.

  6. The following protections should be included in the legislation:

    • That a doctor is not required or compelled to comply with a patient’s request, or to be involved in assisted dying at all.
    • That a doctor should not face any criminal, civil, administrative or disciplinary action for refusing to participate, or for choosing to participate.
    • That a doctor is immune from criminal and civil liability, and disciplinary action for providing treatment that causes death if they have acted in accordance with the requirements of the legislation in good faith and without negligence.
    • That this immunity be extended to a doctor who is present when the patient takes the medication.

  7. The legislation should not include a prescriptive requirement for referral in the case of conscientious objection but conscientious objection should be dealt with under current ethical guidelines.

Share your view

We welcome your feedback on this article – email the Editor at: editor@avant.org.au