Doctors' Knowledge of the Law on Withholding and Withdrawing Life-Sustaining Medical Treatment

Medical Journal of Australia, 201(4), pp. 229-232, 2014

4 Pages Posted: 10 Jul 2016

See all articles by Ben White

Ben White

Queensland University of Technology - Faculty of Law

Lindy Willmott

Queensland University of Technology - Faculty of Law

Colleen Cartwright

Southern Cross University

Malcolm Parker

University of Queensland - School of Medicine

Gail Williams

University of Queensland

Date Written: 2014

Abstract

Objectives: To examine the level of knowledge of doctors about the law on withholding and withdrawing life-sustaining treatment from adults who lack decision-making capacity, and factors associated with a higher level of knowledge.

Design, setting and participants: Postal survey of all specialists in emergency medicine, geriatric medicine, intensive care, medical oncology, palliative medicine, renal medicine and respiratory medicine on the AMPCo Direct database in New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland. Survey initially posted to participants on 18 July 2012 and closed on 31 January 2013.

Main outcome measures: Medical specialists’ levels of knowledge about the law, based on their responses to two survey questions.

Results: Overall response rate was 32%. For the seven statements contained in the two questions about the law, the mean knowledge score was 3.26 out of 7. State and specialty were the strongest predictors of legal knowledge.

Conclusions: Among doctors who practise in the end-of-life field, there are some significant knowledge gaps about the law on withholding and withdrawing life-sustaining treatment from adults who lack decision-making capacity. Significant consequences for both patients and doctors can flow from a failure to comply with the law. Steps should be taken to improve doctors’ legal knowledge in this area and to harmonise the law across Australia.

Keywords: Knowledge of law, Legal knowledge, Doctors, Withholding and withdrawing life-sustaining medical treatment, Advance care planning, End of life decision-making, Health law, Medical law

Suggested Citation

White, Ben and Willmott, Lindy and Cartwright, Colleen and Parker, Malcolm and Williams, Gail, Doctors' Knowledge of the Law on Withholding and Withdrawing Life-Sustaining Medical Treatment (2014). Medical Journal of Australia, 201(4), pp. 229-232, 2014. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2806745

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/

Colleen Cartwright

Southern Cross University ( email )

Lismore, New South Wales 2480
Australia

Malcolm Parker

University of Queensland - School of Medicine ( email )

St Lucia
Queensland 4072
Australia

Gail Williams

University of Queensland ( email )

St Lucia
Brisbane, Queensland 4072
Australia

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