Most of Victoria’s major hospitals are not able to say whether they will allow their clinicians to prescribe euthanasia drugs alongside the surgical and custom instruments of the hospital once the clinic is legalised in June 2019. While the Epworth has shown the private hospital support is contemplating engaging – and large Catholic suppliers have ruled it out – it’s unclear whether patients in public hospitals will have the ability to seek out an assisted departure from willing hospital physicians.
A vote in the country’s upper house this week paved the way for Victoria to become the first nation to legalise voluntary euthanasia. The invoice is to be sent back to the lower house, which has already voted in favour of the legislation after, for final approval. The invoice will give some terminally-ill Victorians who are suffering intolerably and have less than six months to live the right to end their lives. Doctors may conscientiously object to being involved, or refer patients on. However, many big public health providers are yet to determine if they will permit their physicians to prescribe euthanasia drugs and medical equipment sales that assist the outcome. There’ll be an 18-month implementation period to nut out several practical details, including what deadly drug will be used.
The operators of the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, Royal Melbourne Hospital, Austin Hospital, Monash Medical Centre, Box Hill Hospital, Geelong Hospital and Frankston Hospital wouldn’t comment this week. However, Epworth HealthCare has been on the front foot. A working group has established which will advise the hospital board whether it should consider allowing willing doctors to obtain the related medical supplies in Melbourne to take part in euthanasia.
Epworth’s chief medical officer, Professor Emeritus John Catford, stated the working group would look at a range of issues around “end of life”, and would probably make a decision by about March next year. Professor Catford said a very important measurement is the way one can implement a conscientious objection, claiming it is voluntary for physicians (and other employees) in the same manner it’s voluntary for patients. They say we will need to comprehend how that will work in practice.
Professor Catford said he received a mixed reaction after surveying doctors about Epworth’s role in assisted dying. The hospital has also consulted the Uniting Church because of their history and heritage. It is not controlled by the Uniting Church in Australia but the board is autonomous. Although the Epworth has specialists in cancer and neurosciences, or aged care where pain is beyond falls and injury prevention and treatment, Professor Catford noted “the vast majority” of physicians were seeing experts, and would make their frequently decisions on their practice and policy.
The significance of hospitals choices in future euthanasia legislation was also downplayed by the Department of Health and Human Services. It would be our expectation that voluntary assisted dying is more likely to take place within an individual’s home, instead of hospital settings, according to a department spokesman. This means that they will be aided by their GP or other expert of their choice as suitable.
Melbourne’s Catholic hospitals will be home to big euthanasia no-go zones meanwhile, as Mercy Health, Cabrini Health and St Vincent’s have all been firm in their opposition to the clinic. Head of clinical governance in St Vincent’s Health, Dr Victoria Atkinson, said St Vincent’s wouldn’t support assisted suicide in any of the facilities. Not every hospital provides every health services. For example, Dr Atkinson recognised that they do not provide heart-lung transplants or paediatric services in their Melbourne hospital.
Dr Lorraine Baker, Australian Medical Association Victorian president, was also concerned about the possibility that some patients, particularly the elderly, might be coerced by their own family to request euthanasia. There was still work to be done in terms of understanding how the legislation could be implemented but protections for patients will be front and center.