Withholding and Withdrawing Life-Sustaining Treatment in a Patient's Best Interests: Australian Judicial Deliberations

Medical Journal of Australia, 201(9), pp. 545-547, 2014

8 Pages Posted: 10 Jul 2016

See all articles by Lindy Willmott

Lindy Willmott

Queensland University of Technology - Faculty of Law

Ben White

Queensland University of Technology - Faculty of Law

Malcolm Smith

Queensland University of Technology - Faculty of Law

Dominic Wilkinson

University of Adelaide - Discipline of Obstetrics and Gynecology

Date Written: 2014

Abstract

Intractable disputes about withholding and withdrawing life-sustaining treatment from adults who lack capacity are rare but challenging. Judicial resolution may be needed in some of these cases.

A central concept for judicial (and clinical) decision making in this area is a patient's “best interests”. Yet what this term means is contested.

There is an emerging Supreme Court jurisprudence that sheds light on when life-sustaining treatment will, or will not, be judged to be in a patient's best interests.

Treatment that is either futile or overly burdensome is not in a patient's best interests. Although courts will consider patient and family wishes, they have generally deferred to the views of medical practitioners about treatment decisions.

Keywords: Health law, Medical law, End of life decision-making, Withholding and withdrawing life-sustaining treatment, Best interests, Parens patriae jurisdiction, Futility

Suggested Citation

Willmott, Lindy and White, Ben and Smith, Malcolm and Wilkinson, Dominic, Withholding and Withdrawing Life-Sustaining Treatment in a Patient's Best Interests: Australian Judicial Deliberations (2014). Medical Journal of Australia, 201(9), pp. 545-547, 2014. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2806743

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/

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/

Malcolm Smith

Queensland University of Technology - Faculty of Law ( email )

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

Dominic Wilkinson

University of Adelaide - Discipline of Obstetrics and Gynecology ( email )

72 King William Rd
North Adelaide SA
Australia

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