AMA call for greater investment and community awareness of quality end of life care

24 Nov 2016

After a comprehensive year-long policy review by the AMA, including a survey of AMA members, the AMA this week released its updated Position Statement on Euthanasia and Physician Assisted Suicide 2016. It replaces the Position Statement on the Role of the Medical Practitioner in End of Life Care 2007 (Amended 2014). The core message of the statement being that there needs to be much greater investment in quality end of life care, especially national consistent palliative care services.

AMA President, Dr Michael Gannon, said the AMA maintains its position that doctors should not be involved in interventions that have as their primary intention the ending of a person’s life.

“The compassionate care of dying patients is the priority of every doctor. Doctors have an ethical duty to care for dying patients so that they can die in comfort and with dignity. We are always there to provide compassionate care for each of our dying patients so they can end the last chapter of their lives without suffering.

Governments must do all they can to improve end of life care for all Australians by properly resourcing palliative care services and advance care planning, producing clear legislation to protect doctors in providing good end of life care, and developing enhanced palliative care services to support doctors, nurses, and carers who provide end of life care. This must also be accompanied by a comprehensive education and information campaign to raise community awareness of the care, compassion, and medical and nursing assistance and expertise that is available to assist patients in the final stages of their lives.

The AMA Position Statement on Euthanasia and Physician Assisted Suicide 2016 states that:

  • The AMA believes that doctors should not be involved in interventions that have as their primary intention the ending of a person’s life. This does not include the discontinuation of treatments that are of no medical benefit to a dying patient. 
  • The AMA recognises there are divergent views within the medical profession and the broader community in relation to euthanasia and physician assisted suicide. 
  • The AMA acknowledges that laws in relation to euthanasia and physician assisted suicide are ultimately a matter for society and government. 
  • If governments decide that laws should be changed to allow for the practice of euthanasia and/or physician assisted suicide, the medical profession must be involved in the development of relevant legislation, regulations and guidelines which protect:
    • all doctors acting within the law;
    • vulnerable patients – such as those who may be coerced or be susceptible to undue influence, or those who may consider themselves to be a burden to their families, carers or society;
    • patients and doctors who do not want to participate; and
    • the functioning of the health system as a whole.
  • Any change to the laws in relation to euthanasia and/or physician assisted suicide must never compromise the provision and resourcing of end of life care and palliative care services. 
  • Doctors are advised to always act within the law to help their patients achieve a dignified and comfortable death. 

Full press release