A perfect storm: fear of litigation for end of life care

Geoffrey K Mitchell, Lindy Willmott, Ben P White, Donella Piper, David C Currow and Patsy M Yates
Med J Aust 2020; 212 (3): . || doi: 10.5694/mja2.50460
Published online: 17 February 2020

To the Editor: We thank Anaf and Hunt for their letters and accept their points about using the words “voluntary assisted dying”. Language does matter and this term, with the passing of the Voluntary Assisted Dying Act 2017 in Victoria, is now the accepted phrase in Australia. However, we consider the existing point remains that a doctor is being asked to assist a patient to take their own life. While that is acceptable to a substantial number of doctors, it is something with which many doctors have a problem, and the argument that we have put forward still stands. If doctors are concerned with the act of a person taking their own life, then they will not want to be accused of this. If a person dies at the time they have been prescribed appropriate doses of medicines (including opioids), they may feel they have promoted that person's death. If they try to avoid accelerated death by using doses of medicines that are less than effective, then they are not providing the care they should deliver. They lose either way.

  • 1 University of Queensland, Brisbane, QLD
  • 2 Australian Centre for Health Law Research, Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane, QLD
  • 3 University of New England, Armidale, NSW
  • 4 Improving Palliative, Aged and Chronic Care through Clinical Research and Translation, University of Technology Sydney, Sydney, NSW
  • 5 Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane, QLD


Competing interests:

No relevant disclosures.


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