AMA urges Attorney-General to amend laws relevant to VAD and telehealth

This week we wrote to Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus about concerns doctors could be committing a crime by engaging in telehealth services to provide voluntary assisted dying services.

AMA President Professor Steve Robson wrote to Attorney-General, Mark Dreyfus, as a matter of urgency requesting amendments to sections of the Commonwealth Criminal Code Act 1995, that have the potential to negatively affect the provision of voluntary assisted dying services, where legal, throughout Australia.

The AMA’s request was made in response to a Federal Court determination that “suicide”, as used in sections of Act, applies to the ending of a person’s life in accordance with the Victorian voluntary assisted dying (VAD) legislation, effectively prohibiting doctors from using telehealth services when participating in or providing VAD services throughout Australia.

Professor Robson’s letter emphasised that the prohibition on the use of telehealth will potentially have a major impact on people living in regional, rural and remote communities who may not have the same local access to medical services as those in more urban areas and may need to travel significant distances for care. In addition, it also disadvantages patients who are physically unable to travel for face-to-face consultations, even at relatively short distances, due to their medical condition.