Victorian doctors face federal crime risk in euthanasia cases

Victoria eyaletinde ötenazi hakkı yürürlülüğe girdi. Source: Flickr

Supporting someone over the phone or internet to use Victoria's euthanasia laws could be a federal crime and doctors are warned to talk to patients in person.

Talking by phone or internet to a Victorian wanting to access the state's euthanasia scheme could be a federal crime.

Just one week after the controversial laws were enacted, certified doctors are being warned to have all discussions with patients face-to-face, Health Minister Jenny Mikakos said on Wednesday.

Jenny Mikakos
Health Minister Jenny Mikakos said doctors were being warned to conduct all discussions face-to-face.

The action has been prompted by a 2005 federal law which makes it a crime, punishable by a fine, to incite or counsel someone into suicide using a carriage service.

Ms Mikakos said she was not aware of anyone ever being charged with the law and said it would be "absurd" for a family member, doctor or journalist to be prosecuted.

"I don't imagine that any clinician in Victoria would be exposed to risk here," she told reporters.

"I don't think any prosecutor worth their salt will be pursuing this."

It would be an "absolute absurdity" of the commonwealth law lead to risks for family members supporting their loved ones or a journalist talking to a dying patient about their wishes, Ms Mikakos said.

However, the minister does not see the need to amend the state's law.

"Effectively we are working around the Commonwealth law by providing this advice (to doctors) and in the conversations that my department has had with the clinicians, they've made it very clear that they always intended to have face-to-face consultations," she said.

Federal Attorney-General Christian Porter said in a statement his department's discussions with Victorian officials confirmed in-person medical consultations would not spark a prosecution.

"Advice from Victorian officials is that, under their voluntary assisted dying laws, medical consultations would occur in person and would therefore not breach Commonwealth offences for inciting or instructing suicide online," he said.

"I'm confident that anyone acting in accordance with Victorian laws will not be prosecuted for Commonwealth offences."

The Victorian government will help doctors travel to regional Victoria to make sure there is no breach of the law.

Ms Mikakos said the issue had never come up during the parliamentary debate or during the 18-month implementation process, but she considered it "a negligible risk" of prosecutions happening.

By Wednesday, 175 doctors have been trained or are completing training to take part in the scheme.

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