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Ahead of the Victorian Voluntary Assisted Dying scheme from 19 June, Palliative Care Australia has released a set of principles for health professionals to help provide care to people living with a life limiting illness.

PCA CEO Rohan Greenland says the document, Voluntary Assisted Dying in Australia: Guiding principles for those providing care to people living with a life-limiting illness is national in scope, and is designed to sit alongside enacted state legislation where it exists as well as organisational ethical frameworks and professional codes of conduct.

“We know that voluntary assisted dying poses many ethical, personal and professional issues for health professionals, care workers and volunteers who are providing care to people living with a life-limiting illness,” he said.

Yet Mr Greenland said while the practice of palliative care does not include voluntary assisted dying, as palliative care doesn’t hasten or postpone a person’s death, people exploring voluntary assisted dying options must be able to continue to receive palliative care.

According to Mr Greenland the two key reasons for developing the principles are to ensure that appropriate care is provided to people living with a life-limiting illness at all times, and to ensure that respectful and cooperative relationships between health professionals are maintained.

The seven principles of equal importance are:

  • People living with a life-limiting illness are supported and respected whether or not they choose to explore or access voluntary assisted dying.
  • People exploring voluntary assisted dying will not be abandoned
  • Respectful and professional behaviour towards colleagues and co-workers regardless of their views on voluntary assisted dying
  • Effective communication is an important part of quality care