Australia

Euthanasia rollout challenges Vic doctors

Doctors and clinicians face a range of legal and ethical challenges when Victoria becomes the first state to legalise voluntary euthanasia.

Doctors will have to ensure Victoria's complex voluntary assisted dying laws don't prevent eligible candidates from accessing the scheme.

It's one of several legal and ethical challenges doctors will face when the country's first euthanasia laws come into affect in June, experts have said.

"Translating this complex law into appropriate clinical practice will be challenging," lead author Professor Ben White and colleagues said in an article published in the Australian Medical Journal on Monday.

It was key the implementation of the act facilitated access but only to those who were eligible under the legislation, the authors said.

Ensuring doctors didn't initiate conversations around voluntary assisted dying was another challenge, according to the article.

"Clear guidance is needed on how to clinically implement this legal prohibition yet maintain meaningful end-of-life discussions with patients," Professor White and colleagues wrote.

Other issues included meeting legal requirements on how the drugs used in assisted dying circumstances would be prescribed, stored and returned - as well as managing conscientious objection by health professionals while not impeding access to eligible patients.

It was vital that ongoing monitoring, improvement and refinement of the system after it becomes legal was key, the authors found.

"Real time, on the ground feedback about how the VAD law is working in practice; data generated within the VAD system and empirical research undertaken from outside the system," was needed.

Victoria is the only state in the country to legalise voluntary euthanasia under legislation passed in November 2017.

The act allow for eligible Victorian adults who have decision making capability to seek assistance to die under strict conditions.

The laws will come into effect on June 19 this year.

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