Participating in voluntary assisted dying
Healthcare workers do not have to participate in the voluntary assisted dying process—it is a personal choice.
All healthcare workers have the right to refuse to participate in all or any stage of the voluntary assisted dying process. However, registered health practitioners (medical practitioners) and speech pathologists who conscientiously object have specific obligations under the Voluntary Assisted Dying Act 2021 (the Act). Read more about conscientious objection obligations.
Choosing to participate
Medical practitioners do not have to participate in the voluntary assisted dying process–it is their choice.
The Act provides that if medical practitioners refuse to be involved, they must provide the person with information to enable them to access voluntary assisted dying. Read more about the legal obligations of all medical practitioners.
If a person requests access voluntary assisted dying (first request), medical practitioners have obligations under the Act to respond to a first request.
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.
Choosing not to participate
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.
The Act includes provisions for medical practitioners who don't want to participate in the voluntary assisted dying process. However they must provide the person with information to enable them to access voluntary assisted dying, including:
- information about a health practitioner, provider, or service they believe is likely to be able to assist; or
- the Queensland Voluntary Assisted Dying Support Service (QVAD-Support) contact details.
If a medical practitioner conscientiously objects to participation in voluntary assisted dying, they are required under the Act to provide this information. This is consistent with good medical practice.
If a medical practitioner doesn’t support voluntary assisted dying, someone in their care may ask them questions or talk about it. Medical practitioners should consider their response to best support the person.
Learn more about the legal obligations for all medical practitioners.
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 administrating 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.
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.
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.
Choosing not to participate
If a healthcare worker conscientiously objects to voluntary assisted dying, they still have obligations under the Act, read more about these obligations.
How to participate
Healthcare workers should consider the voluntary assisted dying process and whether they’d like to be involved. It is important that healthcare workers liaise with their workplace to determine their level of involvement in voluntary assisted dying and how to support their patients.
Medical practitioners, nurse practitioners, and registered nurses who meet eligibility requirements can apply to become an authorised voluntary assisted dying practitioner. To do this, they will need to:
- submit an application to participate with evidence of meeting the eligibility requirements,
- complete the mandatory voluntary assisted dying training (in development—available late 2022).