Withholding and Withdrawing Life-Sustaining Treatment: Criminal Responsibility for Established Medical Practice?
Journal of Law and Medicine, 17(5), pp. 849-865, 2010
23 Pages Posted: 10 Jul 2016
Date Written: 2010
The law recognises the right of a competent adult to refuse medical treatment even if this will lead to death. Guardianship and other legislation also facilitates the making of decisions to withhold or withdraw life-sustaining treatment in certain circumstances. Despite this apparent endorsement that such decisions can be lawful, doubts have been raised in Queensland about whether decisions to withhold or withdraw life-sustaining treatment would contravene the criminal law, and particularly the duty imposed by the Criminal Code (Qld) to provide the “necessaries of life”. This article considers this tension in the law and examines various arguments that might allow for such decisions to be made lawfully. It ultimately concludes, however, that criminal responsibility may still arise and so reform is needed.
Keywords: End of life decision-making, Withhold and withdraw medical treatment, Life-sustaining treatment, Criminal law, Adult guardianship
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