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 law on euthanasia and assisted dying with other treatment decisions and palliative care

If a health professional fails to provide medical treatment to a patient, can the health professional be guilty of killing that patient?

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

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