This research project aims to enhance end-of-life care through optimal regulation. It will explore regulation of voluntary assisted dying (VAD) as a new and important aspect of end-of-life decision-making and propose a new optimal regulatory framework for VAD in Australia.

Why is this project needed?

VAD and its regulation is new in Australia. Very little is known about how the current regulation of VAD is working in practice and how it can be improved.

VAD regulation includes a range of regulatory forces, including laws, guidelines and policies, ethical codes and training. Existing research about regulating end-of-life care has focused only on one type of regulation i.e. only law or policy. Exploring end-of-life care in this way fails to see the critical overall perspective of how all regulatory forces are connected and function together to guide decision-making about VAD.

VAD is governed not only by regulation specifically about VAD, but also by the regulation that guides wider end-of-life care, and health and medical practice generally. This fragmentation and complexity in regulation can lead to inconsistent and suboptimal guidance for doctors, nurses, other health professionals, patients and families.

PhD scholarships

Two PhD scholarships are available for this project. It is intended that the PhD candidates would work primarily on the comparative case studies of regulation in Canada and Belgium (where voluntary assisted dying has been lawful for longer periods) but there will also be exposure to the wider project.

The project is an interdisciplinary one. Although based in the Law Faculty, applications for these scholarships will be considered from other disciplines including regulation, social science, bioethics and health/public policy.

Applications close 1 October 2020. For more information and to apply, visit QUT scholarships.

What does the project involve?

The project has two stages:

Stage one

Determine how current regulatory forces – including laws, guidelines and policies, ethical codes and training – work together to guide decision-making about VAD.

Stage one will catalogue existing regulation of VAD in Australia and identify the complete set of regulatory forces that guide decision-making about VAD. This will involve legal and policy analysis, document analysis and semi-structured interviews with terminally-ill patients and their families, health professionals, and regulators.

Our analysis will produce a holistic ‘regulatory map’ that explains how various regulatory forces influence VAD decision-making, and how they operate in practice.

The research includes learning from two case study countries where VAD is already legal: Canada and Belgium. How these countries regulate VAD will be mapped as outlined in Stage one (above). The strengths and weaknesses of the Canadian and Belgian approaches to VAD will then inform the design of an optimal regulatory framework for Australia.

Stage two

Design an optimal holistic regulatory framework that strategically aligns regulatory forces guiding decision-making about VAD to promote high quality, patient-centred end-of-life care.

Stage two will develop an optimal holistic regulatory framework for VAD in Australia. This involves critically analysing current VAD regulation and proposing how existing and new regulatory forces could function together effectively to promote high quality, patient-centred end-of-life care. Designed in collaboration with regulators and key stakeholders, the framework will improve laws, guidelines and policies, ethical codes, medical training and practice.