Medical Treatment Act
Following a Parliamentary Inquiry into issues related to the treatment of dying patients, the Victorian Government enacted the Medical Treatment Act (the Act) in 1988.
The Act reflects the strong community and professional consensus that individuals, their families, their friends and medical staff should be assisted in law in making informed decisions about whether medical treatment should be continued, particularly at the end of life.
The Act encourages community and professional understanding of the changing focus of treatment from cure to pain relief for terminally ill patients.
The Medical Treatment Act:
- clarifies the right existing under common law to refuse medical treatment
- creates an offence of medical trespass where a medical practitioner carries out or continues any procedure or treatment that a competent person refuses, and
- gives protection from criminal or civil liability to the medical practitioner who acts in good faith and in accordance with the expressed wish of the fully informed, competent person refusing medical treatment.
In addition, the Act establishes the right of a competent individual to appoint an agent to make medical decisions on their behalf in the event that they are unable to make these decisions for themselves. The power given an agent is called an Enduring Power of Attorney (medical treatment) and with it, the agent has the power to determine whether medical treatment should be given or refused.