This activity comprises ten free interactive online modules (15 - 30 minutes duration) on key aspects of end of life law encountered by General Practitioners in practice. Topics covered include capacity and consent to medical treatment, withholding and withdrawing treatment, Advance Care Directives, substitute decision-making, providing palliative medication, futile or non-beneficial treatment, emergency treatment, end-of-life decision-making for children, and managing disputes. The modules aim to improve practitioners' knowledge of end of life law; assist them to support patients (and patient's families) with end-of-life decision-making; and enhance their confidence to manage legal issues that arise in practice.
The modules may be completed at any time; however it is recommended completion occur within 3 months of registering. Practitioners can choose to complete any number of modules. A certificate of completion is available for each module.
Relevance to General Practice
GPs have a critical clinical role in end of life care, including undertaking Advance Care Planning and coordinating the care of patients at the end of life. They also play a significant legal role when providing this care, e.g. when assessing a patient’s capacity to make treatment decisions; determining who their substitute decision-maker is; or deciding whether to follow a patient’s Advance Care Directive. Each year almost 40,000 adult deaths occur across Australia following a medical decision to withhold or withdraw medical treatment. Though these decisions are a part of mainstream medical practice, research shows that significant legal knowledge gaps exist amongst specialists who practise palliative and end-of-life medicine, creating risks for doctors and patients. Legal knowledge is an important component of practice, and doctors have indicated they want to know more about the law.
- Explain when the legal framework in your State or Territory permits withholding or withdrawing life-sustaining treatment from a person with or without capacity.
- Recognise when a person has impaired capacity for end-of-life decision-making, and when consent to treatment must be sought from a substitute decision-maker.
- Determine whether a person's Advance Care Directive is legally valid and must be followed.
- Identify who may act as a substitute decision-maker for a person who has lost capacity, and the types of decisions they can make.
- Explain when provision of medication for pain and symptom relief will be lawful, and the doctrine of double effect.
Domains of General Practice
D1. Communication skills and the patient-doctor relationship
D2. Applied professional knowledge and skills
D3. Population health and the context of general practice
D4. Professional and ethical role
D5. Organisational and legal dimensions
Curriculum Contextual Units
- Aboriginal and Aboriginal Torres Strait Islander health
- Adult health
- Care of older people
- Children and young people health
- Individuals with disabilities
- Oncology and palliative care
- Pain management