Professor Ben White


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DPhil (University of Oxford), Bachelor of Laws (Queensland University of Technology)

Ben White graduated with first class Honours and a University Medal in Law from the Queensland University of Technology. He won a Rhodes Scholarship to complete a DPhil at Oxford University, where his doctoral thesis investigated the role that consultation plays in the law reform process. Before joining the Law School, he worked as an associate at the Supreme Court and at Legal Aid Queensland. Between 2005 and 2007, Ben was appointed as the full-time Commissioner of the Queensland Law Reform Commission where he had carriage of the Guardianship Review on behalf of the Commission. He also served as a part-time Commissioner between 2007 and 2010.

Ben is a Director of the Australian Centre for Health Law Research. He has published extensively in the area of health law, with a particular focus on end of life decision-making. His work is interdisciplinary with publications in law, medicine, bioethics, social science and psychology journals as well as those that have an interdisciplinary focus. He is an editor of the leading text Health Law in Australia (2018, 3rd ed, Thomson).

Ben has a sustained track record of external funding with four Australian Research Council grants examining different aspects of law, policy and practice at the end of life.  Key topics investigated include: What role does law play in medical decision-making? To what extent to doctors know and follow the law? Why is medical treatment that is futile/non-beneficial provided to patients at the end of life? How many people make a will or engage in advance care planning and why? Does the community know about the law of end of life decision-making? Do patients and families know their rights and responsibilities when making end of life decisions?

Ben also receives funding from the National Health and Medical Research Council being an Associate Investigator on two Centres of Research Excellence, one in End of Life Care and the other on Chronic Kidney Disease.  He is currently undertaking a national training and research program funded by the Commonwealth Department of Health on doctor’s knowledge of law at the end of life.

Ben’s research has had significant impact leading to changes in law, policy and practice. His work has been adopted by parliaments, courts and tribunals, and law reform commissions and has also influenced State and national end-of-life policy and prompted changes to clinical education in universities, hospitals and health departments.  His legal research is publicly available through the End of Life Law in Australia website (co-authored with Lindy Willmott and Penny Neller). This site aims to provide accessible information about law at the end of life for patients, families, health and legal practitioners, the media, policymakers and the broader community.

Ben has supervised five PhD students to completion and is currently supervising 11 students.  He has supervised a broad range of topics in the health and medical law field including euthanasia and assisted dying, futile medical treatment, advance directives and advance care planning, withholding and withdrawing life-sustaining treatment, adult guardianship tribunals, mental capacity and supported decision-making, surrogacy, saviour siblings, mental health law and practice, law reform and research ethics. He welcomes enquiries from prospective PhD students.

Ben is currently a committee member of the Australasian Association of Bioethics and Health Law and the Queensland State Secretary for the Rhodes Scholarship, Australia.

More information about Ben’s research is available here: http://eprints.qut.edu.au/view/person/White,_Benjamin.html.

Research interests

  • Health law
  • Medical law
  • End of life decision-making
  • Withholding and withdrawing life-sustaining medical treatment
  • Medical futility
  • Euthanasia and assisted dying
  • Advance care planning
  • Palliative care
  • Adult guardianship
  • Consent to medical treatment
  • Socio-legal research into medical decision-making
  • Law reform

External competitive grants

  • Ben White, Lindy Willmott, Patsy Yates and Shih-Ning Then, ‘Enhancing legal knowledge of medical practitioners to improve the provision of palliative and end-of-life care’, 2017-2020, Commonwealth Government, Department of Health
  • Consortium of  QUT (overall project lead: Professor Patsy Yates), Flinders University (lead: Professor Jennifer Tieman), University of Technology, Sydney (lead: Professor Deborah Parker), Palliative Care Australia (lead: Ms Liz Callaghan), Aged and Community Services Australia (lead: Ms Melissa Centofanti), Leading Age Services Australia (lead: Ms Kate Lawrence-Haynes), Australian Healthcare and Hospitals Association (lead: Ms Alison Verhoeven), Catholic Health Australia (lead: Ms Suzanne Greenwood), ‘Specialist palliative care and advance care planning advisory services’, 2017-2020, Commonwealth Government, Department of Health
  • Ben White, Lindy Willmott, Cheryl Tilse, Jill Wilson, Deborah Lawson, Jeffrey Dunn and Angela Pearce, ‘Enhancing community knowledge and engagement with law at the end of life’, 2014–2017, ARC Linkage Project
  • Wendy Hoy, Helen Healy, Luke Connelly, Geoffrey Mitchell, Kathryn Panaretto, Zoltan Endre, Jeff Coombes, Professor Glenda Gobe, Ann Bonner and Robert Fassett, ‘Chronic Kidney Disease Centre of Research Excellence’, 2014-2018, NHMRC (Associate Investigator)
  • Patsy Yates, Geoffrey Mitchell, David Currow, Kathy Eagar, Helen Edwards, Lindy Willmott, Ann Bonner, Robyn Clark and Jennifer Tieman, ‘NHMRC Centre of Research Excellence in End of Life Care’, 2013–2017, NHMRC (Associate Investigator)
  • Lindy Willmott, Ben White, Cindy Gallois, Malcolm Parker, Nick Graves and Sarah Winch, ‘Futile treatment at the end of life: legal, policy, sociological and economic perspectives’, 2012–2014, ARC Linkage Project
  • Cheryl Tilse, Jill Wilson, Ben White and Linda Rosenman, ‘Families and generational asset transfers: making and challenging wills in contemporary Australia’, 2011–2014, ARC Linkage Project
  • Ben White, Lindy Willmott, Colleen Cartwright, Malcolm Parker and Gail Williams, ‘Withholding and withdrawing life-sustaining medical treatment from adults who lack capacity: The role of law in medical practice’, 2009–2012, ARC Linkage Project
  • Cheryl Tilse, Jill Wilson, Anne-Louise McCawley, Ben White and Lindy Willmott, ‘Enduring documents – improving the forms, improving the outcomes’, 2009–2010, Legal Practitioner Interest on Trust Accounts Funds Grant Fund
  • Lindy Willmott and Ben White, ‘Improving service provision by legal practitioners to clients in relation to enduring powers of attorney and advance health directives’, 2005–2006, Legal Practitioner Interest on Trust Accounts Funds Grant Fund

Projects

Additional information

Units currently taught

Ben has supervised five PhD students to completion and is currently supervising 11 students.  He has supervised a broad range of topics in the health and medical law field including euthanasia and assisted dying, futile medical treatment, advance directives and advance care planning, withholding and withdrawing life-sustaining treatment, adult guardianship tribunals, mental capacity and supported decision-making, surrogacy, saviour siblings, mental health law and practice, law reform and research ethics. He welcomes enquiries from prospective PhD students.

Ben White served as the full-time Commissioner of the Queensland Law Reform Commission between 2005 and 2007 and as a part-time Commissioner between 2007 and 2010.  During his term as the full-time Commissioner, Ben had carriage of the Guardianship Review on behalf of the Commission during which time the following publications were produced (available at http://www.qlrc.qld.gov.au/guardianship/publications.htm):

  • Queensland Law Reform Commission, Public Justice, Private Lives: A New Approach to Confidentiality in the Guardianship System, Report 62 (2007)
  • Queensland Law Reform Commission, A new approach to confidentiality: A guide for people who may need help with decision-making, Miscellaneous Paper 40 (2007)
  • Queensland Law Reform Commission, A new approach to confidentiality: A guide for families, friends and advocates, Miscellaneous Paper 41 (2007)
  • Queensland Law Reform Commission, Public Justice, Private Lives: A Companion to the Confidentiality Report, Miscellaneous Paper 42 (2007)
  • Queensland Law Reform Commission, Confidentiality in the Guardianship System: Public Justice, Private Lives, Discussion Paper, Working Paper 60 (2006)
  • Queensland Law Reform Commission, Public Justice, Private Lives: A Companion Paper, Working Paper 61 (2006)
  • Queensland Law Reform Commission, Public Justice, Private Lives: A CD-ROM Companion, Working Paper 62 (2006)
  • Queensland Law Reform Commission, Confidentiality: Key questions for people who may need help with decision-making, Miscellaneous Paper 38 (2006)
  • Queensland Law Reform Commission, Confidentiality: Key questions for families, friends and advocates, Miscellaneous Paper 39 (2006)
Title
Withholding and Withdrawing Life-sustaining Treatment from Adults Lacking Capacity: Enhancing Medical Decision-making Through Doctors Compliance with the Law
Primary fund type
CAT 1 - Australian Competitive Grant
Project ID
LP0990329
Start year
2010
Keywords
Withholding and Withdrawing Treatment; Medical Law; Adult Guardianship; Medical Training;
Title
Families and Generational Asset Transfers: Making and Challenging Wills in Contemporary Australia
Primary fund type
CAT 1 - Australian Competitive Grant
Project ID
LP110200891
Start year
2011
Keywords
Intergenerational Transfers; Older People; Social Work
Title
Futile treatment at the end of life: legal, policy, sociological and economic perspectives
Primary fund type
CAT 1 - Australian Competitive Grant
Project ID
LP120100096
Start year
2012
Keywords
Health Sociology; Health Communication; Law and Policy; Social Psychology
Title
Centre for Research Excellence in End of Life Care
Primary fund type
CAT 1 - Australian Competitive Grant
Project ID
1060254
Start year
2013
Keywords
Palliative Care; Supportive Care; Health Services Research; Terminal Care; Access to Health Care; Chronic Diseases; Legal Issues; Consumers; Capacity Building; Policy Development
Title
Enhancing Community Knowledge and Engagement with Law at the End of Life
Primary fund type
CAT 1 - Australian Competitive Grant
Project ID
LP140100883
Start year
2015
Keywords
Health And Medical Law; End Of Life Decision-Making; Community Knowledge Of Law