Voluntary Assisted Dying in Victoria: Why Knowing the Law Matters to Nurses

14 Pages Posted: 26 Oct 2020 Last revised: 9 Feb 2021

See all articles by Jayne Hewitt

Jayne Hewitt

Griffith University - Griffith Law School

Ben White

Queensland University of Technology - Faculty of Law

Katrine Del Villar

Queensland University of Technology

Lindy Willmott

Queensland University of Technology - Faculty of Law

Rebecca Meehan

Independent

Date Written: September 1, 2020

Abstract

In 2017, Victoria became the first state in Australia to pass legislation permitting voluntary assisted dying. Under this law, only those people who are near the end of their lives may access voluntary assisted dying, and because many of these people require nursing care to manage the progression of their illness or their symptoms, it will invariably have an impact on nursing practice. The Victorian law includes a series of procedural steps as safeguards to ensure that the law operates as intended. To support people who choose voluntary assisted dying and to practice safely within boundaries of the law, nurses must be aware of these requirements and how they operate. However, there are often gaps in nurses’ legal knowledge. This was demonstrated in an article that aimed to inform nurses about the operation of Voluntary Assisted Dying Act 2017 (Vic) but contained several errors and misstatements of the law. Our article corrects these errors and discusses how the law is intended to be applied by revisiting the fictional case of Chloe – a woman with a terminal illness who is seeking voluntary assisted dying. As the Voluntary Assisted Dying Act 2017 (Vic) also protects nurses from liability if they act in accordance with its provisions, we conclude that sound knowledge and understanding of its operation support nurses to provide the safe, comprehensive and compassionate care their patients deserve at the end of life.

Suggested Citation

Hewitt, Jayne and White, Ben and Del Villar, Katrine and Willmott, Lindy and Meehan, Rebecca, Voluntary Assisted Dying in Victoria: Why Knowing the Law Matters to Nurses (September 1, 2020). Nursing Ethics, 2020, Griffith University Law School Research Paper No. 21-1, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3687864 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3687864

Jayne Hewitt

Griffith University - Griffith Law School ( email )

Nathan Campus, GU
Nathan 4111
Australia

Ben White (Contact Author)

Queensland University of Technology - Faculty of Law ( email )

Level 4, C Block Gardens Point
2 George St
Brisbane, QLD 4000
Australia

HOME PAGE: http://staff.qut.edu.au/staff/whiteb/

Katrine Del Villar

Queensland University of Technology ( email )

2 George Street
Brisbane, Queensland 4000
Australia

Lindy Willmott

Queensland University of Technology - Faculty of Law ( email )

Level 4, C Block Gardens Point
2 George St
Brisbane, QLD 4000
Australia

HOME PAGE: http://staff.qut.edu.au/staff/willmott/

Rebecca Meehan

Independent ( email )

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