Professor Ben White

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Professor, Faculty of Law

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

Ben White is Professor of End-of-Life Law and Regulation and an Australian Research Council Future Fellow (Professorial level, 2020-2024) in the Australian Centre for Health Law Research at the Faculty of Business & Law, Queensland University of Technology. His area of research focus is end-of-life decision-making with a particular focus on voluntary assisted dying.

Ben graduated with first class Honours and a University Medal in Law from the Queensland University of Technology. He was awarded 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 of Queensland 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 was a foundation Director of the Australian Centre for Health Law Research for six years (2013-2018). He still co-leads the End-of-Life Research Program within the Centre. He has published over 150 book chapters and journal articles 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) and International Perspectives on End-of-Life Law Reform: Politics, Persuasion and Persistence (2021, Cambridge University Press).

Ben has been part of interdisciplinary teams that have been awarded $45 million in the field of end-of-life decision-making, including from the Australian Research Council, the National Health and Medical Research Council and Commonwealth and State governments. His five Australian Research Council grants have examined 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 do 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? What 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 is currently undertaking a four-year full-time Australian Research Council Future Fellowship (2020-2024) that aims to develop a new and holistic approach to regulating voluntary assisted dying. This project will enhance end-of-life care in Australia through better regulation and will draw on Canadian and Belgian case studies. Ben is a Chief Investigator on a National Health and Medical Research Council project involving an intervention to address futile or non-beneficial treatment at the end of life. He has also been an Associate Investigator on two Centres of Research Excellence, one in End-of-Life Care and the other on Chronic Kidney Disease.

Ben is also currently developing funded training and research programs about end-of-life law.  These programs include the legislatively-mandated training that health professionals must complete before being involved in voluntary assisted dying in Victoria, Western Australia and Queensland (funded by these State Governments).  Another is a national program funded by the Commonwealth Department of Health to enhance health professionals' knowledge of law at the end of life called End of Life Law for Clinicians. He also contributes to the Commonwealth Government-funded End of Life Directions for Aged Care project.

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 research has also contributed to voluntary assisted dying law reform across Australia, and particularly in Queensland. 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 15 PhD students to completion.  He supervises a broad range of topics in the health and medical law field including voluntary assisted dying, futile or non-beneficial medical treatment, advance directives and advance care planning, withholding and withdrawing life-sustaining treatment, palliative care, adult guardianship tribunals, mental capacity and supported decision-making, and other areas related to end-of-life decision-making. He welcomes inquiries from prospective PhD students.

A list of Ben’s publications and other outputs is available here: http://eprints.qut.edu.au/view/person/White,_Ben.html.

Research interests

  • Health law
  • Medical law
  • End-of-life decision-making
  • Voluntary assisted dying and euthanasia
  • Withholding and withdrawing life-sustaining medical treatment
  • Medical futility and non-beneficial treatment
  • Advance care planning and advance care directives
  • Palliative care
  • Adult guardianship
  • Consent to medical treatment
  • Regulation of medical decision-making
  • Socio-legal research
  • Law reform

External grants

  • Lindy Willmott, Ben White and Patsy Yates, ‘Development of Voluntary Assisted Dying Training for Medical and Nurse Practitioners’, 2022-2024, Queensland Government, Department of Health
  • Jessica Young, Jeanne Snelling, Te Hurinui Karaka-Clarke, Leanne Manson, Richard Egan, Janine Winters, Ben White, Lindy Willmott, Gary Cheung and Jackie Robinson, ‘A new research agenda to support safe and accessible assisted dying in Aotearoa’, 2021-2022, Health Research Council of New Zealand
  • Jayne Hewitt, Andrea Marshall, Katya May, Greg Comadira, Colleen Cartwright, Lindy Willmott, Ben White, Tom Torpie, Lucy Tripp, Kerina Denny, ‘End-of-Life Decisions in the Emergency Department and Intensive Care: Where’s the Law', 2021-2022, Gold Coast Hospital Collaborative Grant
  • Ben White, ‘Optimal Regulation of Voluntary Assisted Dying’, 2020-2024, ARC Future Fellowship
  • Lindy Willmott, Ben White and Patsy Yates, ‘Develop and Provide Online Voluntary Assisted Dying Participating Practitioner Training’, 2020-2023, Western Australian Government, Department of Health
  • Ben White, Lindy Willmott, Patsy Yates and Shih-Ning Then, ‘End of Life Law for Clinicians’, refunded 2020-2023, 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, Aged and Community Services Australia, Leading Age Services Australia, Australian Healthcare and Hospitals Association, Catholic Health Australia, ‘End of Life Directions for Aged Care’, refunded 2020-2023, Commonwealth Government, Department of Health
  • Lindy Willmott, Ben White, Patsy Yates and Malcolm Parker, ‘Development and Delivery of Voluntary Assisted Dying Training’, 2018-2022, Victorian Government, Department of Health and Human Services
  • Ben White, Lindy Willmott, Patsy Yates and Shih-Ning Then, ‘End of Life Law for Clinicians’, 2017-2020, Commonwealth Government, Department of Health
  • Nicholas Graves, Ken Hillman, Lindy Willmott, Ben White, Gillian Harvey, Leonie Callaway, Magnolia Cardona-Morrell, Adrian Barnett and Xing Lee, ‘Reducing Non-Beneficial Treatment at the End-of-Life’, 2018-2021, NHMRC
  • 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, Aged and Community Services Australia, Leading Age Services Australia, Australian Healthcare and Hospitals Association, Catholic Health Australia, ‘End of Life Directions for Aged Care’, 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

Additional information

Ben's end-of-life 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 research has also contributed to voluntary assisted dying law reform across Australia, and particularly in Queensland.

His engagement with practice includes through the training programs he developed for medical and health professionals on end-of-life law, including the legislatively-mandated voluntary assisted dying training produced for the Victorian, Western Australian and Queensland Governments. He has also undertaken a series of research projects involving formal collaboration with partners from practice including hospitals, government bodies, adult guardianship offices, non-government organisations (including patient and interest groups), and practising medical and health professionals.

In terms of external appointments, Ben 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 here):

  • 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
Better End-of-life Care Through an Optimal, Holistic Regulatory Framework
Primary fund type
CAT 1 - Australian Competitive Grant
Project ID
FT190100410
Start year
2020
Keywords
Title
InterACT Trial: Reducing Non-Beneficial Treatment at the End-of-Life
Primary fund type
CAT 1 - Australian Competitive Grant
Project ID
00004417.0
Start year
2018
Keywords
Health services research; Effectiveness study; Economic evaluation; Death and dying; Palliative
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
Title
Chronic Kidney Disease Centre of Research Excellence
Primary fund type
CAT 1 - Australian Competitive Grant
Project ID
78301373
Start year
2014
Keywords
Biomarkers; Clinical Epidemiology; Health Economics; Kidney Disease; Service Delivery
Title
Centre for Research Excellence in End of Life Care
Primary fund type
CAT 1 - Australian Competitive Grant
Project ID
78196233
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
Futile treatment at the end of life: legal, policy, sociological and economic perspectives
Primary fund type
CAT 1 - Australian Competitive Grant
Project ID
78024265
Start year
2012
Keywords
Health Sociology; Health Communication; Law and Policy; Social Psychology
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
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
77831076
Start year
2010
Keywords
Withholding and Withdrawing Treatment; Medical Law; Adult Guardianship; Medical Training