Doctors call assisted death system “pedantic” and “clumsy”

Doctors who have helped with requests for voluntary euthanasia in Victoria have complained that the process is too bureaucratic, clunky, and unfairly excludes access for some near-death patients.

A study by Professors Ben White and Lindy Willmott of the Australian Center for Health Law Research at the Queensland University of Technology included interviews with 32 doctors involved in voluntary euthanasia in Victoria.

Queensland introduced a bill to legalize voluntary assisted dying in February 2021.Credit:neufvms

In 2019, Victoria became the first Australian state to legalize assisted dying, but the study’s findings will also have ramifications for Queensland, where politicians will debate assisted dying legislation in September.

Professor Willmott said doctors complained that the pre-approval and oversight process was too bureaucratic, describing it as “highly legalistic”.

“Participants also cited time-consuming paperwork, ‘pedantic’ requests to correct patient information, and delays at every step of the process as procedural issues,” she said.

Many said they were frustrated with the forms returned by the Voluntary Assistance in Dying Review Board secretariat for typographical or minor corrections, such as shortening a person’s name from their full name, although others said a detailed review was reasonable and necessary.

Mandatory online portal technology has been described as “clunky” and “non-intuitive”.

Some doctors said the monitoring and approval process created unnecessary delays and hardship for seriously ill patients who did not have long to live and were effectively excluded “unfairly”.

A general practitioner said: “The council works 9 am to 5 pm, Monday to Friday. And then we got to a weekend … and there is nothing until Monday … it is very shortly after the patient actually passed out and therefore couldn’t say to the pharmacist that he wished to have the drug. “

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