Victorians needed for study into law at end of life

Wednesday 23 November, 2016

Victorians are being urged to take part in an Australian-first study to better understand community engagement with law at the end of life.

The study, a partnership between Cancer Council Victoria, Australian Centre for Health Law Research (QUT), University of Queensland and Cancer Councils NSW and Queensland, is the first attempt to assess whether Australians understand and act upon their legal right to participate in decisions about medical treatment for themselves, or for their loved ones at the end of life.

Dr Deborah Lawson, Legal Policy Advisor at Cancer Council Victoria's McCabe Centre for Law and Cancer, and a partner investigator on the project, said the study needed input from both cancer patients and family members or carers.

"Australian law generally requires that informed consent about medical treatment be given prior to treatment, and that patients be provided opportunities to participate in decisions about their healthcare," Dr Lawson said.

"However, there are major barriers to this kind of participation, particularly at the end of life.

"Making important decisions about end of life care requires knowledge and understanding from patients and carers about their legal rights.

"This research seeks to understand the community's knowledge of law at the end of life, and how that affects the ability of patients and their families to make decisions about treatment.

Cancer Council Victoria is asking for patients and families affected to take part in the study, to improve understanding of medical decision-making, including what support would assist Australians in making these kinds of complex decisions.

Adult cancer patients with a diagnosis of terminal cancer, and adult family members (including bereaved family members) of adults with terminal cancer are invited to take part in the study.

Victorians can find out more by visiting or contacting Dr Rachel Feeney at QUT on 3365 2505, or

"Cancer Council works hard to support all Victorians affected by all cancers, throughout every stage of the cancer journey," Dr Lawson said.

"If you or a loved one needs support or information, please call 13 11 20 - our cancer information and support line."

Around 30,500 Victorians are diagnosed with cancer each year, and about 10,700 die from the disease.