The Role of Doctors in Assisted Dying

29 Aug 2017

sara bird

by Dr Sara Bird

Female doctor holds patient's hand

In the Netherlands, where physician assistance in dying is allowed for patients who are “suffering unbearably” without any prospect of relief, 4.5% of all deaths in 2015 were the result of a physician administering lethal medication at the explicit request of a patient.

Legal regulation of physician assistance in dying was introduced in the Netherlands in 2002. With the proposed introduction of voluntary assisted dying legislation in Victoria and NSW, a  survey of physicians on end of life decisions in the Netherlands between 1990 and 2015 is of interest:

  • the percentage of patients in whom an end of life decision had preceded death increased from 39% in 1990 to 58% in 2015
  • physician assistance in dying was requested by 8.3% of all deceased persons in 2015
  • a physician administered lethal medication at the explicit request of the patient in 4.5% of all deaths in 2015, compared to 1.7% in 1990
  • physician assistance in dying was performed mainly by GPs (in 93% of cases in 2015).

Up to date information about the law at the end of life in Australia is available here.

This blog contains general information only. We recommend you contact your medical defence organisation or insurer when you require specific advice in relation to medico-legal matters.



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