Oral Presentation Australasian Association of Bioethics & Health Law and New Zealand Bioethics Conference

“This is uncharted water for all of us”: Views of Victorian hospital staff about voluntary assisted dying from a survey of 7 health services.  (963)

Rosalind McDougall 1 , Marcus Sellars 2 , Barbara Hayes 3 , Mark Tacey 3 , Bridget Pratt 1 , Karen Detering 2 , Anastasia Hutchinson 4 , Cade Shadbolt 1 , Courtney Hempton 5 , Rosemary Aldrich 6 , Melanie Benson 7 , Jeffrey Kirway 8 , Michelle Gold 9 , Lisa O'Driscoll 9 , Danielle Ko 10
  1. University of Melbourne, Melbourne
  2. Advance Care Planning Australia, Austin Health, Melbourne
  3. Northern Health, University of Melbourne, Melbourne
  4. Deakin University, Geelong
  5. Monash University, Melbourne
  6. Ballarat Health Services, Ballarat
  7. Peninsula Health, Melbourne
  8. Eastern Health, Melbourne
  9. Alfred Health, Melbourne
  10. Austin Health, Melbourne

Implementing voluntary assisted dying (VAD) is a sensitive and morally contested issue in healthcare organisations.  This paper reports findings of a mixed methods survey of clinical staff in seven health services in Victoria, conducted in the planning period between the passing of the state’s Voluntary Assisted Dying Act in November 2017 and the June 2019 start date. 

The survey investigated clinicians’ level of support for the legislation, their willingness to participate in VAD-related activities, and their reasons.  Text data was collected on the challenges anticipated and supports required. 

5160 clinicians from seven health services responded to the anonymous online survey, making this the largest dataset of Victorian clinicians’ views on voluntary assisted dying to date.  

Overall, there were high levels of support for the legislation with some variation across sites and roles.  Support was highest amongst nursing staff and lowest amongst medical specialists.  However, support for the legislation did not directly translate to willingness to participate in VAD-related activities.

Respondents anticipated a range of challenges for all types of individual practitioners in their work, but also a set of challenges for hospitals, health services and health systems in attempting to integrate VAD into existing healthcare structures. 

The findings informed implementation decisions at the hospitals involved and provide an important baseline for future research on VAD in Victoria.  The data offers significant insights into clinicians’ ethical decision-making when voluntary assisted dying becomes legal in their home state.