We are pleased to present a report of an international study undertaken under the auspices of the World Federation of Right to Die Societies (WFRtDS) from mid-2020 to early 2021. This study reveals challenges to providing legal assisted dying and euthanasia during COVID-19.
Internationally, providers of services for legal assisted dying and euthanasia (AD&E) have met a raft of challenges in continuing to provide those services, due to pandemic restrictions. The research found that providers have had to be highly adaptable, within legal and ethical requirements, to ensure that AD&E services remained accessible to both already approved patients and other potentially eligible people.
Areas where AD&E providers have had to adjust services to remain both effective and timely included witnessing requirements, use of telemedicine for communications and assessments, and the administration of medications. A key revelation to providers was that these systems innovations often resulted in more client-centred practice.
Some research participants also held concerns for a post-COVID context in which people with severe long-term ‘post-COVID syndrome’ may reconsider their quality of life, potentially straining the capacity of AD&E services. As a result, provider agencies internationally have identified an urgent need to both review the feasibility of some key aspects of the laws and develop greater capacity.
The research found that the COVID-19 pandemic experience has provided a unique opportunity for lessons to be gained for providing essential AD&E services in a major health sector crisis. The researchers concluded that, as AD&E agencies and practitioners have developed new and often better ways to provide their services, the challenge now is for those developments to be shared across the sector internationally and the respective laws revised to reflect those improvements.
Study conducted by: Dr Pam Oliver, independent health/law researcher specialising in AD&E research; Mike Wilson, registered nurse, doctoral candidate (University of Adelaide), Australia; Dr Rob Jonquiere, Executive Director, WFRtDS, The Netherlands; and Dr Cameron McLaren, medical oncologist providing assisted dying services in Victoria, Australi