Poster Presentation Clinical Oncology Society of Australia Annual Scientific Meeting 2018

Victorian end-of-life care professionals’ attitudes toward voluntary assisted dying (#187)

Sarah Blaschke 1 , Penelope Schofield 2 , Keryn Taylor 3 , Anna Ugalde 4
  1. Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, Melbourne, VIC, Australia
  2. Department of Psychology, Swinburne University of Technology, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
  3. Department of Psychiatry and Psychosocial Cancer Care, St Vincent’s Hospital , Melbourne, VIC, Australia
  4. School of Nursing and Midwifery, Faculty of Health, Deakin University, Melbourne, VIC, Australia

Aims: Significant changes to end-of- life care legislation in Australia will allow Victorians access to voluntary assisted dying (VAD). Given health professionals’ role in caring for patients at the end of life, their voices are important in understanding the implications for patient care. The aim of this study was to explore the existing perspectives of end-of-life care professionals on legalization and implementation of VAD in the Victorian context in order to better understand the positions toward and against legalization of VAD.

Methods: A qualitative research design was adopted using textual data collected through semi-structured interviews with 16 Victorian health professionals with experience in caring for people with life-limiting illness. A purposive sampling strategy was used to ensure a broad representation of perspectives. The interviews were conducted either face-to-face or over the telephone, were audio-recorded and transcribed verbatim, and subjected to qualitative descriptive analysis techniques. Study procedures and reporting follow the Consolidated Criteria for Reporting Qualitative Research guidelines.

Results: Participants reported two overarching positions grounded in differing moral philosophies with compelling arguments both for and against legalization of VAD. A third and common line of argument emerged from areas of shared concern and uncertainty about the practical consequences of introducing VAD. While a diversity of opinion was evident, all participants advocated for more public education and funding into end-of-life care services to make high quality care equitable and widely available. All participants reported a commitment to reducing human suffering and facilitating best possible dying experiences for the patients in their care.

Conclusions: Common dedication to facilitating ‘good’ dying experiences exists among experts despite their divergent views on VAD. Ongoing engagement with stakeholders is needed for practical resolution in the interest of developing health policy for providing safe and equitable care to patients at the end of life.