AMA further urging AG to act on telehealth and VAD

The AMA has again written to the Attorney-General to amend the Criminal Code.

In a joint letter to Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus, federal, state and territory AMA presidents have renewed calls for the Criminal Code Act 1995 to be amended to allow for the lawful use of telehealth in the provision of legally available voluntary assisted dying services throughout Australia.

As written, the Act makes it an offence to use a ‘carriage service’ (such as a telephone, videoconference, email or other forms of electronic communication) to publish or distribute material that counsels or incites committing or attempting to commit suicide.

In a recent Federal Court decision, Carr v Attorney-General (Cth) [2023] FCA 1500 declared that ‘The term “suicide”, as used in relevant sections does apply to the ending of a person’s life in accordance with, and by the means authorised by, the Voluntary Assisted Dying Act 2017 (Vic) and Voluntary Assisted Dying Regulations 2018 (Vic).’

This decision effectively prohibits doctors and other health practitioners from using telehealth while participating in or providing VAD services throughout Australia, despite the fact that VAD is a valid and legal health service in all Australian states and is currently under consideration in the territories.

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