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26 Oct 2017

The Australian Medical Students’ Association (AMSA) today announced a policy that provides in-principle support to voluntary assisted dying (VAD). The organisation, which represents Australia’s 17,000 medical students, adopted a new policy on the controversial issue, after representatives from Australia’s 21 medical schools voted to support the principle of euthanasia and physician-assisted dying.


The policy reiterates that ‘VAD is currently illegal within all Australian states and territories’, and stresses that medical professionals must, ‘first and foremost, abide completely and entirely by state or federal legislation, and the principles behind such legislation.’


Rather, the policy ‘supports voluntary assisted dying in principle’, and calls for action only if and when legislation is passed in Australia. Further, it is pragmatic and measured in the degree of its support.


The document re-affirms AMSA’s belief that ‘high quality accessible palliative care is an essential component of end of life care’, and that ‘VAD should not replace or be a substitute for high quality palliative care’.


Further, in the event that VAD is legislated, the policy recommends that it should be reserved for ‘cases where all other viable and acceptable treatment options have been exhausted’, and patients must be ‘fully informed about all treatment options – curative and palliative – before discussing VAD’ with their doctor.


Importantly, AMSA also recommends that medical professionals’ right to conscientiously object to provide VAD to patients is upheld, as long as access is not unjustly compromised’, in line with procedures for other ethically divisive issues such as termination of pregnancy.


A common opposition to VAD is concern about coercion or exploitation of vulnerable people. This is an incredibly important consideration, and AMSA calls upon the Australian federal and state governments to ‘ensure that before any legislation on VAD is put forward, that appropriate safeguards are able to be implemented.’ The policy also stresses the importance of ‘protect[ing] vulnerable people…so that any access to VAD is strictly limited to the intended population only’.


AMSA Global Health Policy Officer, Patrick Walker, said the policy is a significant step forward for AMSA, as it strives to better represent its members. “This is an important policy for AMSA to have, especially given the current political climate. As the conversation in this area progresses, it’s important we provide a voice for Australia’s medical students; our future medical professionals and future leaders. That’s exactly what this policy does.”


AMSA President, Rob Thomas, today stated: “It's interesting to see such a significant support from our students via survey on this quite divisive issue. While we respect current laws, and the rights of doctors to object should the laws change, we now have a consensus opinion that supports the concept moving forward.”


Media Contacts:


Isabella Gosper

AMSA Public Relations Officer


Phone: 0416 816 830


Patrick Walker

AMSA Global Health Policy Officer


Phone: 0413 695 435


Published: 26 Oct 2017