Telehealth continues to be illegal for terminally ill people seeking Voluntary Assisted Dying

Rural and regional Australians will continue to be disadvantaged by today’s Federal Court decision making it illegal for doctors to use telehealth to support people applying for Voluntary Assisted Dying (VAD), says Dying with Dignity Victoria (DWDV).

Communicating with terminally ill people about their end-of-life options via a phone call or Zoom call could fall foul of current Federal ‘carriage’ laws.  This significantly impacts rural and regional Australians trying to access quality health advice regarding VAD.

Dr Nick Carr, GP and Board Member of DWDV, brought an application to clarify the meaning of suicide in relation to VAD. The Federal Court today ruled not to change the current interpretation, meaning telehealth will continue to be unavailable to support the most vulnerable people seeking VAD.

DWDV began tackling this matter back in 2020, when Victoria was still the only State with VAD laws. Now with all States having VAD laws, the issue has become a national priority. In light of today’s decision, DWDV calls on Federal Parliament to fix this issue and welcomes Kate Chaney MP’s planned introduction of a private member’s bill in the new year exempting voluntary assisted dying appointments from the Federal Criminal Code.

A 2005 Federal Criminal Code amendment has caused major problems for some people applying for VAD. The amendment banned discussion that was said to incite or counsel an individual about suicide over a carriage service, which led to VAD being interpreted as equating to suicide.

“This an enormous disappointment for terminally ill people in rural and regional Australia who are too ill to travel to medical appointments to seek VAD,” said Dr Carr.

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