#335 Communications and Advocacy update

19 August 2021

Here’s an update on a few of the issues AMA Victoria is working on for members, including:

An Australian study: incidence and characteristics of end-of-life decisions in Victoria project

Several years ago, AMA Victoria assisted the Australian Centre for Health Law Research (ACHLR) with promotion of its survey on medical end‐of‐life decisions in Victoria, an important component of its An Australian study: incidence and characteristics of end-of-life decisions in Victoria project.

In recognition of this, the ACHL has recently shared us with two journal articles presenting findings of the aforementioned study which explored the nature of medical end-of-life decisions in Victoria prior to the commencement of the Voluntary Assisted Dying Act 2017 (Vic) (‘VAD Act’). The ACHLR implemented a postal and online survey about medical end-of-life decisions for adult patients, completed in 2019 by Victorian specialists treating adults at the end of life. The survey instrument has been used extensively in international studies, and the research team tested and then adapted it for Australian conditions.

The research aimed to determine the types of decisions being made; for example, whether they involved withholding or withdrawing life-prolonging measures, providing potentially life-shortening doses of opioids, providing deep sedation up until death, or whether the patient decided to stop eating and drinking. The research also explored decision making processes, whether variations in decisions occurred based on the patient’s medical circumstances, clinical settings, attending doctor’s medical specialty, and the availability of palliative care. 

This research was supported by the National Health and Medical Research Council-funded Centre of Research Excellence in end-of-life care based at Queensland University of Technology. It was undertaken by researchers from the Queensland University of Technology, the University of Queensland, and Vrije Universiteit Brussel.

Article 1. Collecting data on end-of-life decision-making: Questionnaire translation, adaptation and validity assessment

This article reports on the process of translating and culturally adapting a European questionnaire on medical end-of-life decisions and end-of-life care to the Australian context, producing a questionnaire to assess contemporary medical practice in Australia and enable comparison with international studies.

Members can access this article here.

Article 2. Intentional hastening of death through medication: A case series analysis of Victorian deaths prior to the Voluntary Assisted Dying Act 2017

This article reports on whether assisted dying practices occurred in Victoria in the 12 months prior to the commencement of the VAD Act, and to examine features of any identified cases. It found that unlawful assisted dying practices were reported by attending doctors in a small number of Victorian deaths during this period. Hastening death using medication generally did not involve immediate life-ending acts. These practices were typically linked with the provision of palliative or terminal sedation, although there was a lack of consensus regarding what constituted palliative or terminal sedation, and the primary intention behind providing it.

Members can access this article here.


Expression of Interest - Invite to join an Expert Advisory Group for the Public Sector Residential Aged Care Services sector

AMA Victoria is seeking a member to represent us on an Expert Advisory Group established by the Victorian Department of Health to support the Strengthening Public Sector Residential Aged Care Services (PSRACS) initiative. 

The PSRACS sector often provides older people who are experiencing socioeconomic disadvantage or who have complex care needs with access to services that they would otherwise have difficulty in accessing in the non-government sector. 

Read more information on this initiative here.

The Expert Advisory Group is designed to inform options for more sustainable, effective and high-quality PSRACS in metropolitan Melbourne and consider actions to benefit PSRACS in regional and rural areas. 

The group will include representatives from public sector service providers and peak bodies; aged care, medical, and nursing practitioners and researchers; union and consumer groups; along with independent experts. 

Initially, the group will be convened until April 2022 with the first meeting to be held on Tuesday 31 August 2021 at 11.30am. The role of the group will include reviewing and advising on the recommendations of consultants undertaking state-wide consultations and due diligence of the metropolitan PSRACS operations to inform options for a future service delivery model for PSRACS.

If you would like to represent AMA Victoria on this group, please send an expression of interest to Senior Policy Adviser, Lewis Horton at LewisH@amavic.com.au, by Friday 20 August 2021

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