Faith-based aged care providers in NSW are likely to seriously consider whether they can continue to operate under a regime that forces them to facilitate voluntary assisted dying (VAD) in their premises.
Andrew Ford of Anglicare said the question should be asked unless amendments to the NSW VAD Bill are passed to exempt faith-based healthcare and aged care providers from allowing VAD on their premises.
Last week, the bill passed by the NSW Legislative Council will not allow faith-based aged care facilities to opt out of the system. A clause will enable them not to administer the banned drug, but they must open their premises so that doctors can advise, assess, and treat their residents.
This obligation would lapse under one of the nine amendments to be debated in the NSW tomorrow.
“I think it changes the dynamic, and the question will be asked if we continue with it.” – Andrew Ford.
Ford, Anglicare’s general manager for mission and partnerships, said the lack of a conscientious objection facility was a serious concern for faith-based providers of aged care and health care.
“I think it changes the dynamic, and the question will be asked whether we continue with it,” he said.
“I can’t comment on what our council would do, but it does change what is already a difficult environment given the lack of government funding, rising compliance costs, and most non-profit, religious aged care providers in this space are making significant losses, so it adds a different dynamic.
“It doesn’t take into account that some people don’t want to be in places where health care providers can assist with death rather than help them live the best and most complete life possible until the end,” he said.
“Some checks and balances are very good, but we object to euthanasia on principle.”
He said it was strange that a bill that promotes choice does not allow providers to make choices.
“Alex Greenwich” [the MP who introduced the bill] has told Anglicare that one of his concerns – and I understand that – is that if there is only one retirement home in a small town or rural area, if that Home has a conscientious objection to VAD, a resident has no choice,” he said.
“But it would be a perverse outcome if the only Hoa faith-based organization runs the only Home in that settingecide that they no longer want to provide that service; not only does it affect the choice of a person who may be VAD wants; it would affect community-wide access to residential aged care.
“Another come in, but in the area, we have a lot of the for-profits that have piled up in the industry before are now leaving — so some big players in the for-profit space are stepping out because they’re not making money.” more in this space. The provision of aged care in NSW is a space we cannot afford to lose any more providers.”
“It doesn’t take into account that some people don’t want to be in places where caregivers can assist with death.” – Andrew Ford.
In an open letter to the NSW Legislative Council members, the three largest faith-based aged care providers – Anglicare, Catholic Health Australia, and HammondCare – said any VAD program should be voluntary for clinical and medical officials and the organizations they work for.
The 2021 Voluntary Assisted Dying Act claims to provide choice in end-of-life matters, but it protects the will of residents in aged care facilities who want nothing to do with dying assistance, the letter said.
“The bill has the veneer of protecting aged care workers, but does the opposite, as it forces them to choose between abandoning residents with whom they have a long-term care relationship or violating their conscience by being involved in the process.” help with their death. †
“If there isn’t a full exemption, there should be one that means they don’t have to facilitate the act itself.” – Michael Stead.
Last week, a motion passed at the Anglican General Synod strongly opposed any legal obligation for faith-based organizations to facilitate, support, or permit euthanasia or assisted suicide.
“Ideally, our motion is that residential aged care facilities are not forced to facilitate VAD, and if there is not a full exemption, there should be one that means they do not have to facilitate the act themselves,” Michael Stead, Bishop of South Sydney, told Eternity.
“They can let other medical people do the preparatory phases and then facilitate the handover at the end of life. That is the minimum acceptable from the point of view of the faith communities.”
“It’s a complete denial of the rights of those vulnerable people who don’t want access to VAD.” – Megan Best.
Medical ethicist Megan Best said VAD advocates in NSW failed to incorporate safeguards into Victorian law because they saw them as barriers to entry.
“They think that people all over the state should have access to VAD, but they have completely ignored the concerns of frail aged care residents who feel they need to go somewhere where they can be safe from unwanted VAD, or even the suggestion of VAD, or a neighbor killed by VAD while living there,” said Best, who is a research associate at the Institute for Ethics and Society at the University of Notre Dame.
“It is a complete denial of the rights of those vulnerable people who do not want access to VAD.
“Also, all healthcare and aged care facilities now have to invest resources in facilitating a system to deal with VAD that will redirect resources to other areas of care. They are not allowed to decide where their resources are best spent. †
Another problem with NSW legislation is allowing doctors and staff to raise the issue of VAD with patients and residents so that “someone unwell or socially isolated can take that advice and be killed prematurely because someone has suicidal thoughts. Psychiatrists will tell you this will be counterproductive in terms of existing anti-suicide strategies, so we have a state-funded system where VAD is imposed on individuals and institutions that don’t want it. I think it’s a huge denial of individual and institutional rights.”
“Security measures in Victoria, which convinced many politicians the legislation would be safe, have been removed from the NSW Act.” – Megan Best.
She said another amendment was needed to ensure that the doctor determining eligibility criteria for VAD is a specialist in the disease to avoid making mistakes about how long a person should live and advise on treatment options.
“WA has removed this requirement, which is in Victorian law, and the WA doctors have said, ‘sometimes I have to look up textbooks on this disease because I’ve never come across it before – and these are the people who decide how long a person has to live, which can make a difference to someone who decides to choose VAD and may die prematurely just because they are given the wrong information.”
Finally, there is no provision that a person’s primary care physician or family will be involved in a decision to access VAD.
“These are the people who know the patient best, so there’s a lot of concern that personal factors and the possibility of someone feeling depressed or feeling compelled, that there isn’t anyone who knows well the person who needs to be involved in the process,” she said.
“Security measures in Victoria, which convinced many politicians the legislation would be safe, have been removed from the NSW bill because proponents view them as barriers to entry, so there is concern that vulnerable people are at risk of being killed prematurely if it happens.” is not going to be what they want.”