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Victorian Government Questions Legislation to Provide Legal Immunity for Clinicians Refusing Futile or Non-beneficial Medical Treatment

On December 8, 2016, the Victorian Government formally responded to the Legislative Council’s Legal and Social Issues Committee June 2016 report, “Inquiry into End of Life Choices.”


Among the Legislative Council’s 49 recommendations was one on medical futility that the Government identified as needing further work.  




From the 2016 Report

“RECOMMENDATION 29: That the Victorian Government legislate to enact the protection doctors currently have under the common law regarding withholding or withdrawing futile treatment. In this regard the Committee recommends Government give consideration to the South Australian Consent to Medical Treatment and Palliative Care Act 1995 section 17.”


Government Response

“Currently, a doctor will face neither criminal nor civil liability for withholding or withdrawing futile treatment in accordance with proper medical practice and in good faith. An assessment of futility is a medical assessment that must be made on a case by case basis.”

“Legislation alone would not be able to resolve the perceived uncertainty and in any legislative scheme there would continue to be ‘grey areas’ which may or may not fall within any provisions as the question of whether treatment is futile will always depend on the particular circumstances of 
the case.”

“Supporting an information campaign – The report clearly identifies doctors’ lack of knowledge about the law in relation to end of life care and the impact with may be having on patient care. This will be addressed through a targeted information campaign for health practitioners.”

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.