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News

20th Dec 16

VCAT rules in favour of Dr Rodney Syme

DWDV Vice President, Dr Rodney Syme, cleared by VCAT

21 December, 2016

Dying With Dignity Victoria are delighted by the recent ruling in Dr Rodney Syme's VCAT case, where he fought against a condition placed on his medical license by the Medical Board of Australia in relation to counselling that he was providing to a Victorian man.

From the final report:

"Dr Syme’s practise is limited to advising and assisting patients who are in the final stages of terminal illness and to whom a sense of control over their dying is important. His patients seek him out. He does not advertise for patients.

He therefore has contact only with those patients who self-identify as being part of a cohort for whom traditional palliative care options may not be acceptable. Having been contacted by them, he assists only those whom he is satisfied are in a sound state of mind and whose death from their disease is inevitable or whose disease has progressed to the extent that their lives have become intolerable to them.

It is widely accepted in palliative medicine that, consistent with this clause, doses of medicine may be given to patients to relieve their pain and suffering even though it is foreseeable and indeed inevitable that those doses will also have the effect of hastening the patient’s death. The use of morphine and sedatives for this purpose is widely accepted and meets the needs of many patients. However, not all patients wish to receive that form of palliative care because of the loss of dignity, control and comfort which can be associated with it."

The final report on the case released by VCAT is an interesting read, frankly detailing the work that Dr Syme does in counselling people who are suffering from terminal or advanced incurable illnesses as they near the end of their lives.

In determining that Dr Syme’s practises and counselling are intended to relieve suffering and not primarily aimed at ending a person’s life, VCAT has ultimately found that Dr Syme’s practises are not a risk or a danger to the community. They cited his knowledge of palliative care, his extensive experience in counselling people who are irremediably suffering at the end of their lives and the professional manner in which he has conducted his counselling.

Read the full report by clicking here