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End of Life Decisions: Current Western Australian Debate

31 Jan 2018

The Chief Psychiatrist’s position on voluntary assisted dying, as given in evidence to the Western Australian Parliamentary Joint Select Committee on End of Life Choices, is summarised below.  Please note that nothing should be taken as explicit or implied support for the legalisation of physician assisted suicide.

The Chief Psychiatrist of Western Australia calls for robust mental health services to be available to individuals requiring palliative care for physical illnesses. Consistent with the RANZCP Position Statement on physician assisted suicide, the Chief Psychiatrist considers that the primary role of medical practitioners in end of life care is to facilitate the provision of high quality patient-centred care.

In the context of any future potential legislation regarding voluntary assisted dying, the following principles apply:

  • mental illness, ‘demoralisation’ or ‘loss of hope’ must never be a legislated reason to allow assisted suicide
  • mental illnesses must not be classified as terminal illnesses for the purposes of legislation
  • any legislation regarding assisted suicide must ensure an extremely robust assessment of capacity and screening for mental illness
  • psychiatrists are appropriately qualified to assess capacity
  • no physician must ever be coerced into undertaking an end of life capacity assessment
  • individuals with mental illness have a right to be considered without stigma or discrimination in society.

The Chief Psychiatrist recommends that psychiatrists refer to the RANZCP Position Statement 67 on physician assisted suicide for further information and is available at; 

https://www.ranzcp.org/Files/Resources/College_Statements/Position_Statements/PS-67-Physician-Assisted-Suicide-Feb-2016.aspx

 

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