Australian Doctors’ Knowledge of and Compliance with the Law Relating to End-of-Life Decisions: Implications for LGBTI Patients

(2018) Culture, Health & Sexuality 20(8), pp. 845-857.

20 Pages Posted: 9 Jan 2018 Last revised: 18 Aug 2018

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

Malcolm Parker

University of Queensland - School of Medicine

Gail Williams

University of Queensland

Date Written: October 25, 2017

Abstract

In most developed countries, competent patients have the legal right to refuse any medical treatment; Advance Care Planning mechanisms extend this right to non-competent patients. However, some groups, including Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex (LGBTI) people, risk their wishes not being respected if they lose capacity, more than others. Little is known about medical practitioners’ knowledge of, or attitudes to, the law in this area, especially in relation to LGBTI people, or how the law influences their decision-making. An Australian postal survey explored knowledge and attitudes of medical specialists to legal issues relating to withdrawing/withholding life-sustaining treatment from adults without capacity. One scenario (the focus of this paper) asked which of four plausible substitute decision-makers, including a same-sex partner, had the legal authority to make such decisions. The overall response rate was 32% (867/2702). Less than one-third of respondents correctly identified the same-sex partner as the legally-authorised decision-maker. LGBTI people face multiple obstacles to having their end-of-life wishes respected. Where health-care providers are also ignorant of the partner’s legal right to make such decisions, the problem is compounded. Improved legal education for clinicians and promotion of educational resources for members of the LGBTI community is needed.

Keywords: Health and medical law, end of life decision-making, knowledge of law, substitute decision-making, LGBTIQ

Suggested Citation

Cartwright, Colleen and White, Ben and Willmott, Lindy and Parker, Malcolm and Williams, Gail, Australian Doctors’ Knowledge of and Compliance with the Law Relating to End-of-Life Decisions: Implications for LGBTI Patients (October 25, 2017). (2018) Culture, Health & Sexuality 20(8), pp. 845-857.. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3096814

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/

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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