A federal court may make a decision on whether to allow teleheath consultations for Voluntary Assisted Dying (VAD) before the Albanese government acts to change current laws.
The Australian reports Melbourne doctor Nick Carr who works with the program has sought a legal ruling on whether or not a federal law banning the use of phone or internet to “counsel” suicide applies to VAD programs which have been adopted in all states.
His application is set to be heard at the end of the month.
State and territory attorneys-general have been pushing their federal counterpart, Mark Dreyfus, to amend the law to exempt VAD programs, but he is yet to make any commitment and it could take some time to process any legal amendments.
The legal uncertainty has prevented states from using telehealth for VAD consultations, restricting access to the programs in remote and regional areas.
Christian groups and some health professionals are opposed to telehealth for euthanasia.
The Australian reports that around 1,000 doctors and health professionals including leaders in geriatric and palliative care, have united to oppose telehealth for VAD programs.
Calling themselves Health Professionals Say No! they wrote an open letter to attorneys-general in The Weekend Australian warning it would create “great hazards and injustice”.
“Further relaxation of criminal codes to facilitate telehealth for VAD assisted suicide would remove protections owed those vulnerable to suicide under duress and in need of palliative care, aged care and mental health services, especially so in regional and remote Australia,” the letter said.
“It is oversimplistic and in breach of a patient’s rights and owed dignity in healthcare to imagine competence, informed consent, lack of coercion, mental illness and comprehensive health care or palliative care needs can be adequately assessed using telehealth by VAD doctors,” the health professionals wrote.