Voluntary assisted dying/euthanasia: Will this have an impact on cancer care in future years?


In considering the impact of medically hastened death (MHD) on cancer care, a wide range of variables needs to be considered including demographic factors, diagnoses, local cultural factors, and the legislative frameworks in place. Here, we present a synthesis of recently available Current Treatment Options in Oncology published literature and empirical data collected following legislative change to enable MHD in Victoria, Australia to explore in detail the potential impact of MHD on cancer care with a focus on patients/families and professional groups. Our fndings reveal that for patients and families, both physical and existential distress frequently underlie MHD requests, with the latter less readily recognised by health professionals. The responses of those around the patient making the request may have a very signifcant impact on relationships within families and upon the nature of the subsequent bereavement. For palliative care, while differing views may remain, it appears that there has been some accommodation of MHD into or alongside practice over time. The recognition of a shared commitment to relief of suffering of palliative care and MHD appears a helpful means of establishing how these practices may co-exist. In cancer practice more broadly, as individual professionals refect upon their own roles, new relationships and pathways of patient movement (or referral) must be established in response to patients’ requests. Our fndings also highlight many unanswered questions in understanding the impact of MHD, including that upon those dying who choose not to access MHD, First Nations peoples, the participating health professionals’ longer term, and the relief of suffering itself. A systematic approach to the evaluation of MHD legislation must be adopted in order to understand its full impact. Only then could it be determined if the aspirations for such legislative change were being met.


Euthanasia, Voluntary assisted dying, Medically hastened death, Palliative care, Cancer

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