Scope of practice for medical practitioners and other healthcare workers
Learn more about the practitioner eligibility requirements and submit your application to become an authorised voluntary assisted dying practitioner.
The table below provides an overview of the scope of practice for medical practitioners and other healthcare workers in voluntary assisted dying.
Other registered health practitioners*
Other healthcare workers
Act as the coordinating practitioner (if eligible, verified, completed training)
Act as the consulting practitioner (if eligible, verified, completed training)
Act as the administering practitioner (if eligible, verified, completed training)
Initiate a conversation about VAD in the course of informing about all end of life options
Provide information about VAD to a person who has requested it
Accept referral to determine whether the person has an eligible diagnosis or prognosis
Accept referral to determine whether the person has decision-making capacity in relation to VAD
Accept referral to determine whether the person is acting voluntarily and without coercion
Continue to provide care to a person and their family, knowing they are accessing VAD
Medical practitioners can choose their level of involvement with voluntary assisted dying. For example, an eligible medical practitioner:
- may be comfortable providing a patient with general information but can choose to take no further part
- can choose to be the coordinating practitioner, but not the administering practitioner
- can choose to be the coordinating practitioner for a person with whom they’ve had a longstanding doctor-patient relationship, but not for another person.
Medical practitioners should check whether their workplace has specific policies in place regarding voluntary assisted dying.
Medical practitioners can refuse to participate in any part of voluntary assisted dying for reasons including:
- a conscientious objection to voluntary assisted dying
- not having the appropriate skills or training to be involved in the process
- not being available to assist the person through the process.
Learn more about medical practitioner legal obligations if they choose not to participate.
Medical practitioners who meet the eligibility requirements, have completed the mandatory training, and are approved by the Chief Medical Officer of Queensland Health as an authorised voluntary assisted dying practitioner, can be involved in the process.
This includes being able to perform the roles of coordinating practitioner, consulting practitioner, and administering practitioner.
Who can act in this role
Medical practitioner who has completed mandatory training and been authorised by the Chief Medical Officer prior to conducting the first assessment
Medical practitioner who has completed mandatory training and been authorised by the Chief Medical Officer prior to conducting the consulting assessment
Coordinating practitioner (default). Role can be transferred to another eligible medical practitioner, nurse practitioner, or registered nurse who has completed mandatory training and been authorised by the Chief Medical Officer
Nurse practitioner and registered nurse roles
Information for nurse practitioners and registered nurses
People with questions about voluntary assisted dying, including those who may be considering it as an end-of-life option may approach a nurse practitioner or registered nurse involved in their care to request information.
Factsheets of frequently asked questions for nurse practitioners and registered contain essential information about voluntary assisted dying:
- Frequently asked questions for nurse practitioners (PDF 631 kB)
- Frequently asked questions for registered nurses (PDF 672 kB)
Roles for healthcare workers
Only a medical practitioner or nurse practitioner can initiate a conversation about voluntary assisted dying. If any other healthcare worker initiates a conversation about voluntary assisted dying, they could be found in breach of the Act. A healthcare worker can provide general information at the person’s request, which must be a clear and unambiguous question. Learn more about responding to a person asking about voluntary assisted dying.
All healthcare workers should continue to provide care to people who are considering or have requested access to voluntary assisted dying. Healthcare workers should review and follow their organisation’s policies and procedures for voluntary assisted dying, while also complying with the legislation and supporting their patient’s choice and autonomy.
Along with providing care and support to the person, healthcare workers can be involved in assessing a person’s eligibility to access voluntary assisted dying if they receive a referral for determination from a coordinating or consulting practitioner.
Reason for referral for determination
Who can receive and accept the referral
The coordinating and/or consulting practitioner must refer the matter to another suitably qualified person if they are unable to determine if a person:
Has a disease, illness, or medical condition that:
Any registered health practitioner with appropriate skills and training to determine whether a person has an eligible disease or prognosis.
It is recommended that a medical practitioner or nurse practitioner with a relevant scope of practice determines the disease or prognosis.
Has decision-making capacity.
Any registered health practitioner with appropriate skills and training to determine whether a person has an eligible disease or prognosis or decision-making capacity.
For example, a psychologist.
Is acting voluntarily and without coercion.
Any person with appropriate skills and training to determine whether a person is acting voluntarily and without coercion.
For example, a social worker.
All healthcare workers have the right to refuse to participate in all or any stage of the voluntary assisted dying process. For example:
- a nurse practitioner may be comfortable providing a patient with general information but can choose to take no further part in the process.
- an eligible registered nurse can choose to be the administering practitioner for a person with whom they’ve formed a therapeutic nurse-patient relationship, but not for another person
- a psychologist may be willing to accept a referral for determination of decision-making capacity for voluntary assisted dying for a person with whom they have a longstanding therapeutic relationship, but not for another person
- a social worker may provide bereavement counselling for the spouse of a person who has died by voluntary assisted dying but choose to not be directly involved in the voluntary assisted dying process.
If a healthcare worker refuses to participate they still have obligations under the Act. Read more about these obligations.
Find out more about authorised suppliers and disposers of the voluntary assisted dying substance.
Paramedics and other first responder roles
In rare occurrences, first responders may be involved in a situation where a person is administering a voluntary assisted dying substance. First responders can provide palliative and comfort care to the person and support for the family.
However, first responders usually have a duty to administer life-sustaining treatment. This is not the case with voluntary assisted dying.
The Act provides protection from civil and criminal liability for registered health practitioners, ambulance officers (and volunteers), and students under the Health Practitioner Regulation National Law (Queensland) who, acting in good faith, don’t administer life-sustaining treatment where:
- the person doesn’t request it; and
- they believe on reasonable grounds that the person is dying after administration of the voluntary assisted dying substance (either self-administered or practitioner administered in accordance with the Act).
This means that a first responder who withholds life-sustaining treatment from a person they believe on reasonable grounds is dying after administration of the voluntary assisted dying substance is protected by the Act. This is on the basis that the patient has not directly requested life-sustaining treatment.