Medical practitioners play a crucial role in facilitating safe access to voluntary assisted dying as the only health practitioners able to assess and support someone to access voluntary assisted dying.
Medical practitioners may be asked to participate in voluntary assisted dying in any of the below ways:
- to be a patient’s Coordinating Practitioner who coordinates all steps of the voluntary assisted dying pathway
- to be a patient’s Consulting Practitioner who conducts a second eligibility assessment
- to give a specialist opinion about a patient’s eligibility, for example their prognosis
- to give information about voluntary assisted dying to a patient
Only medical practitioners authorised by SA Health can provide voluntary assisted dying as a Coordinating or Consulting Medical Practitioner.
As a doctor, you should consider your level of involvement in voluntary assisted dying and how you may respond to requests about voluntary assisted dying.
Deciding to participate in voluntary assisted dying
Deciding to participate in voluntary assisted dying as a medical practitioner is a personal and professional decision that should be made carefully.
When choosing the extent and level of involvement in discussions about voluntary assisted dying, registered medical practitioners should take into consideration:
- their personal and professional values regarding end of life care
- their therapeutic relationship with the patient
- the needs and choices of the patient
- the impact on the patient as a result of their decision
- their willingness to participate in various aspects of voluntary assisted dying, for example providing information only, assessing a patient’s eligibility, prescribing, or administering the medication
- obligations they have under relevant professional codes of conduct or ethics
- if their employing health service supports voluntary assisted dying or not
- if their employing health service has capacity to safely meet the needs of a patient seeking voluntary assisted dying
- any relevant organisational policies
- their professional obligation not to unduly delay a patient’s access to voluntary assisted dying
- the need to inform the patient of their decision as soon as possible.