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Three Australian legal decisions in August 2009

September 23, 2009: Rodney Syme (DWD Victoria, Australia) analysed three recent (August 2009) legal decisions in Australia that are of more widespread interest.

You can download his analysis by clicking here

His conclusions after the analysis were:

1. Because the Justices in all three cases cited precedents from other jurisdictions, both Australian and international, it can be accepted that these decisions have significant impact in other Australian states, and potentially, other English-speaking jurisdictions.

2. The principle of autonomy and self-determination, to determine what happens to one’s own body, even if such decisions result in death, is paramount. Autonomy trumps sanctity of life.

3. An advance health care directive, created by a capable individual, must be respected if it applies to the situation at hand.

4. Doctors must provide palliation of symptoms caused by the refusal of treatment, even if that refusal of treatment will be likely to result in death.

5. A person does not need to be terminally ill or dying to make a decision to refuse treatment which will almost certainly result in his death.

6. The court did not seem to regard a decision to refuse treatment thus precipitating one’s own death as suicide. It did not seem to regard medical assistance (palliation) to achieve that end as criminal.

7. Such a decision, if made by a capable person, need not seem to be rational, nor did the person have to be fully informed (in the case of an AD) about the consequences of refusal.