End of Life Law in Australia

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Intersection of the law on euthanasia and assisted suicide with other treatment decisions and palliative care

Intersection of the laws on assisted dying, medical treatment decision-making and palliative medication

Medical treatment decision making

Is a health professional legally liable if he or she fails to provide medical treatment to a person?

Health professionals have a legal duty to provide a person in their care with the ‘necessaries of life’, including medical treatment. If a health professional breaches this duty, they may be criminally liable for any consequences to the person’s life, health or well being.

However, this duty will not apply where the person has capacity and refuses life-sustaining treatment either at the time the treatment is offered or in an Advance Care Directive, or where the treatment is considered by the doctor to be inappropriate in the circumstances (e.g. futile or non-beneficial). In these cases health professionals are under no duty to provide treatment, even though the person will likely die without it.