Providing Palliative Care at the End of Life: Should Health Professionals Fear Regulation?

(2018) 26 Journal of Law and Medicine, 214-245.

34 Pages Posted: 19 Nov 2018

See all articles by Lindy Willmott

Lindy Willmott

Queensland University of Technology - Faculty of Law

Ben White

Queensland University of Technology - Faculty of Law

Donella Piper

University of New England

Patsy Yates

Queensland University of Technology

Geoffrey Mitchell

University of Queensland - Faculty of Medicine

David Currow

University of Technology Sydney (UTS)

Date Written: October 29, 2018

Abstract

Anecdotal evidence from Australia and abroad suggests that health professionals may fear potential legal and/or professional repercussions if their patient dies after receiving pain relieving medication at the end of life. As a result, patients may be under-medicated and their pain and other symptoms not adequately relieved. The regulatory repercussions from inappropriate administration of medications are potentially broad and include criminal charges, civil negligence claims, coronial investigations and disciplinary proceedings. But despite these potentially serious repercussions, a review of publicly available cases in Australia reveals there has been comparatively little judicial or quasi-judicial scrutiny where over-medication is alleged to have resulted in a patient’s death. In this article, we describe the regulatory framework that governs this field of medical practice and analyse the extent to which the actions of health professionals have been scrutinised, and the consequences of that scrutiny. We identify a number of themes arising from this analysis and conclude that fears of legal or professional repercussions are largely unfounded, and that existing laws and other forms of regulation should not inhibit the prescription and administration of adequate pain and other symptom relief to people at the end of life.

Keywords: Doctrine of Double Effect, Schedule 8 Drugs, End of Life Care, Inadequate Pain Relief, Palliative Care, End of Life Law, Regulation of Pain Medication, Legal Repercussions, Disciplinary Proceedings

Suggested Citation

Willmott, Lindy and White, Ben and Piper, Donella and Yates, Patsy and Mitchell, Geoffrey and Currow, David, Providing Palliative Care at the End of Life: Should Health Professionals Fear Regulation? (October 29, 2018). (2018) 26 Journal of Law and Medicine, 214-245.. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3274384

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/

Donella Piper

University of New England ( email )

11 Hills Beach Road
Biddeford, ME 04005
United States

Patsy Yates

Queensland University of Technology ( email )

2 George Street
Brisbane, Queensland 4000
Australia

Geoffrey Mitchell

University of Queensland - Faculty of Medicine ( email )

Brisbane, Queensland
Australia

David Currow

University of Technology Sydney (UTS) ( email )

15 Broadway, Ultimo
PO Box 123
Sydney, NSW 2007
Australia

Register to save articles to
your library

Register

Paper statistics

Downloads
39
Abstract Views
273
PlumX Metrics