Doctors discussing euthanasia on phone risk breaking law

Doctors, patients and family members will not be able to discuss euthanasia on the phone or risk breaking Commonwealth law (Bigstock)

Doctors and family members have been warned they could be breaching federal laws against inciting suicide if they use a phone or the internet to discuss euthanasia with terminally-ill patients. Source: The Age.

More than 170 doctors who have registered to be trained to discuss the new assisted suicide legislation with their patients will get written advice that they must meet patients in person to avoid potentially breaching Commonwealth law, Victoria’s Health Minister Jenny Mikakos revealed yesterday.

“We have provided them with very clear advice that any consultations they are engaging in with patients in providing them with advice to access voluntary assisted dying should be done through face-to-face consultations rather than through any electronic means,” she said.

“What has come to light is a potential intersection with a Commonwealth law. The law relates to an offence provision that relates to inciting or counselling someone through a carriage service ... around suicide.”

However Attorney-General Christian Porter said his department had undertaken discussions with the Andrews Government about a potential breach. He was confident anyone acting in accordance with Victorian laws would not be prosecuted for a Commonwealth offence.

“Advice from Victorian officials is that, under their voluntary assisted dying laws, medical consultations would occur in person and would therefore not breach Commonwealth offences for inciting or instructing suicide online,” he said.

The state’s historic voluntary assisted dying laws came into force on June 19 and allow access to lethal drugs for terminally-ill adults who have only about six months to live and meet other strict eligibility criteria, such as being able to give informed consent.

Ms Mikakos said she had not been informed of any doctors who had phone conversations about assisted dying with patients, but she refused to rule out whether families may be at risk. She stressed it was unlikely the law would be enacted.

She implored the Morrison Government not to prosecute anyone who may have inadvertently committed an offence.


Doctors, family warned they could be breaking law discussing euthanasia on phone, internet (The Age


Euthanasia illegal by phone (The Australian)

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