Withholding and withdrawal of ‘futile’ life-sustaining treatment : unilateral medical decision-making in Australia and New Zealand

Willmott, Lindy, White, Benjamin P., & Downie, Jocelyn (2013) Withholding and withdrawal of ‘futile’ life-sustaining treatment : unilateral medical decision-making in Australia and New Zealand. Journal of Law and Medicine, 20(4), pp. 907-924.

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Abstract

This article examines the law in Australia and New Zealand that governs the withholding and withdrawal of ‘futile’ life-sustaining treatment. Although doctors have both civil and criminal law duties to treat patients, those general duties do not require the provision of treatment that is deemed to be futile. This is either because futile treatment is not in a patient’s best interests or because stopping such treatment does not breach the criminal law. This means, in the absence of a duty to treat, doctors may unilaterally withdraw or withhold treatment that is futile; consent is not required. The article then examines whether this general position has been altered by statute. It considers a range of suggested possible legislation but concludes it is likely that only Queensland’s adult guardianship legislation imposes a requirement to obtain consent to withhold or withdraw such treatment.

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ID Code: 60506
Item Type: Journal Article
Refereed: Yes
Keywords: Medical futility, End of life decision-making, Withholding and withdrawal of life-sustaining medical treatment, Adult guardianship law, Health law, Medical law
ISSN: 1320-159X
Subjects: Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > LAW AND LEGAL STUDIES (180000) > LAW (180100) > Access to Justice (180102)
Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > LAW AND LEGAL STUDIES (180000) > LAW (180100) > Law and Society (180119)
Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > PHILOSOPHY AND RELIGIOUS STUDIES (220000) > APPLIED ETHICS (220100) > Human Rights and Justice Issues (220104)
Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > PHILOSOPHY AND RELIGIOUS STUDIES (220000) > APPLIED ETHICS (220100) > Medical Ethics (220106)
Divisions: Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Faculty of Law
Current > Research Centres > Australian Centre for Health Law Research
Current > Schools > School of Law
Funding:
Deposited On: 30 May 2013 22:46
Last Modified: 13 Nov 2014 14:08

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