Palliative Care and Other Physicians' Knowledge, Attitudes and Practice Relating to the Law on Withholding/Withdrawing Life-Sustaining Treatment: Survey Results

Palliative Medicine, Vol. 30(2), Pp. 171-179, May 2015

32 Pages Posted: 30 Jun 2016 Last revised: 9 Jul 2016

See all articles by Colleen Cartwright

Colleen Cartwright

Southern Cross University

Ben White

Queensland University of Technology - Faculty of Law

Lindy Willmott

Queensland University of Technology - Faculty of Law

Gail Williams

University of Queensland

Malcolm Parker

University of Queensland - School of Medicine

Date Written: May 1, 2015

Abstract

Background: To effectively care for people who are terminally ill, including those without decision-making capacity, palliative care physicians must know and understand the legal standing of Advance Care Planning (ACP) in their jurisdiction of practice. This includes the use of advance directives/living wills (ADs) and substitute decision-makers (SDMs) who can legally consent to or refuse treatment if there is no valid AD.

Aim: The study aimed to investigate the knowledge, attitudes and practices of medical specialists most often involved in end-of-life care in relation to the law on withholding/withdrawing life-sustaining treatment (WWLST) from adults without decision-making capacity.

Design/Participants: A pre-piloted survey was posted to specialists in palliative, emergency, geriatric, renal and respiratory medicine, intensive care and medical oncology in three Australian States. Surveys were analysed using SPSS20 and SAS 9.3.

Results: The overall response rate was 32% (867/2702); 52% from palliative care specialists. Palliative Care specialists and Geriatricians had significantly more positive attitudes towards the law (χ242 = 94.352; p < 0.001) and higher levels of knowledge about the WWLST law (χ27 = 30.033; p < 0.001), than did the other specialists, while still having critical gaps in their knowledge.

Conclusions: A high level of knowledge of the law is essential to ensure that patients’ wishes and decisions, expressed through ACP, are respected to the maximum extent possible within the law, thereby according with the principles and philosophy of palliative care. It is also essential to protect health professionals from legal action resulting from unauthorised provision or removal of treatment.

Keywords: Health Law, Medical Law, Adult Guardianship Law, Withholding and Withdrawing Life-Sustaining Treatment, Palliative Care, Knowledge of Law, Compliance with Law, Survey of Doctors, End of Life Decision-Making

Suggested Citation

Cartwright, Colleen and White, Ben and Willmott, Lindy and Williams, Gail and Parker, Malcolm, Palliative Care and Other Physicians' Knowledge, Attitudes and Practice Relating to the Law on Withholding/Withdrawing Life-Sustaining Treatment: Survey Results (May 1, 2015). Palliative Medicine, Vol. 30(2), Pp. 171-179, May 2015. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2802400

Colleen Cartwright

Southern Cross University ( email )

Lismore, New South Wales 2480
Australia

Ben White (Contact Author)

Queensland University of Technology - Faculty of Law ( email )

Level 4, C Block Gardens Point
2 George St
Brisbane, QLD 4000
Australia

HOME PAGE: http://staff.qut.edu.au/staff/whiteb/

Lindy Willmott

Queensland University of Technology - Faculty of Law ( email )

Level 4, C Block Gardens Point
2 George St
Brisbane, QLD 4000
Australia

HOME PAGE: http://staff.qut.edu.au/staff/willmott/

Gail Williams

University of Queensland ( email )

St Lucia
Brisbane, Queensland 4072
Australia

Malcolm Parker

University of Queensland - School of Medicine ( email )

St Lucia
Queensland 4072
Australia

Register to save articles to
your library

Register

Paper statistics

Downloads
11
Abstract Views
116
PlumX Metrics