Law Change: Victorians Can Refuse Medical Treatment

Victorians now have the power to refuse medical treatment.

New laws that came into effect in March 2018 mean families can no longer overturn such instructions.

As reported in the March 19, 2018 issue of The Age Digital Edition.

New laws to give patients control of own destiny

Victorians, including those with dementia , now have the power to refuse medical treatment or resuscitation even after they lose consciousness or forget who they are.

New laws that quietly came into effect last week mean families can no longer overturn such instructions, as has happened in the past.

The laws aim to give people more power over what happens to them when they are ill and can no longer communicate their wishes.

The introduction of the Medical Treatment Planning and Decisions Act 2016 means people with dementia still can have a say about how they are treated, long after their memory starts to fail. For example, if you can no longer swallow do you want to be fed through your stomach ? And if you get pneumonia do you want to be aggressively treated?

People can also leave instructions asking they receive treatment in certain circumstances, such as a young person with a severe disability who wants to make it clear they do want to be resuscitated to save their life.

Significantly , new “instructional directives” providing instructions about the treatments a person consents to or refuses will not be able to be overruled by family members.

“People might have concerns that their family will disagree with their wishes for end-of-life care, and the act addresses this,” said Acting Health Minister Martin Foley.

He said people of any age with decision-making capacity could make a legally binding advanced care directive, which would need to be witnessed by two people, including a medical practitioner (in the case of children, a doctor with expertise in capacity in children).

Anyone who is found to have coerced someone into making an advanced care directive could face up to five years in prison.

Rosa Bazzanella, a will and estates specialist with Rigby Cooke Lawyers , said doctors who ignored directives could also face disciplinary proceedings. “If they are aware of an advanced care directive and ignore it, it’s professional misconduct, even if it is an emergency,” she said.

“The only time they’re going to get off, is if they act in good faith at a time when they’re under pressure, and they have to act to save a life.”

Also included in the new laws are values directives, where people can describe what is important in their life, including their religious beliefs.

“It can be really idiosyncratic what people do and don’t want,” said Odette Waanders, CEO of Palliative Care Victoria. “Some people will say ‘If I can eat ice-cream and watch TV you can do anything to me’ ,” she said. “Others will say ‘unless I can feed myself I’m not interested’ .

“The values directive is a really valuable tool, so that people are not suddenly in the crisis situation not knowing what you would want.”

Victorians will also not be able to make a legally binding request to donate their organs.

‘It can be really idiosyncratic what people … want.’

This article is from the March 19 issue of The Age Digital Edition. To subscribe, visit

Aisha Dow | Health reporter

Pain of dying is loss of control of one’s destiny

I’m now in my 80s, in the evening of life but still of sound mind, a retired doctor having seen many die, a former Catholic priest having sent many on their way.

My view on the right to die at a time of one’s own choosing is imposed on no one; on the other hand, the view of those opposed to euthanasia is imposed on everyone – that is the injustice (”Reject euthanasia and save us from Dr Death”, Comment, 12/5).

Dying is a lonely event, eased but not shared by those who love us.

The real pain of dying is not the physical pain, which can be easily relieved; it is the pain of irretrievable loss of dignity, of control over one’s destiny, bodily functions and independence.

It is the pain of fading memories, the pain of waiting with the realisation that one day we will be no more than a name on a family tree. These things can never be relieved by palliative care. My life is my own and I wish for the freedom to die with dignity when I decide, surrounded by those who love me and within the constraints of a law framed to shield me in that dying hour.

Source: Pain of dying is loss of control of one’s destiny

13 May 2014 — 3:00am | Letters –

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