Community knowledge of law at the end of life

Professor Ben White1, Professor Lindy Willmott2, Associate Professor Cheryl Tilse3, Professor Jill Wilson4, Dr Deborah Lawson5, Professor Jeffrey Dunn6, Ms Angela Pearce7, Professor Joanne Aitken8, Dr Rachel Feeney9

1 Australian Centre for Health Law Research, Queensland University of Technology, GPO Box 2434, Brisbane Qld 4001, bp.white@qut.edu.au
2 Australian Centre for Health Law Research, Queensland University of Technology, GPO Box 2434, Brisbane Qld 4001
3 School of Nursing, Midwifery and Social Work, The University of Queensland, Brisbane Qld 4072
4 School of Nursing, Midwifery and Social Work, The University of Queensland, Brisbane Qld 4072
5 Cancer Council of Victoria, 100 Drummond Street, Carlton Vic 3053 
6 Cancer Council Queensland, PO Box 201, Spring Hill Qld 4004
7 Cancer Council New South Wales, PO Box 572, Kings Cross NSW 1340
8 Cancer Council Queensland, PO Box 201, Spring Hill Qld 4004
9 Australian Centre for Health Law Research, Queensland University of Technology, GPO Box 2434, Brisbane Qld 4001

We report on research undertaken as part of a three year Australian Research Council-funded study examining community members’ understanding and use of law when participating in medical treatment decisions at the end of life. There has been little Australian research undertaken on general community knowledge of end-of-life law.  It is also unclear how knowledge of end-of-life law affects people’s involvement in making treatment decisions for themselves or their loved ones.  Part of this project involved a large scale survey (n  = 1175) of a representative sample of adults from Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria, conducted using computer assisted telephone interviewing.  The survey explored the extent to which adults know their legal duties, rights and powers as patients or substitute decision-makers, the sources from which people derive relevant legal knowledge (e.g., family, doctors, legal services, the internet), experiences of end-of-life decision-making and demographics.  Surveys were adapted for each State law.  Findings presented will include levels of community knowledge on end-of-life law, how people would seek information if needed, predictors of legal knowledge and details of decision-making experiences.


Biography

Professor Ben White is a Director of the Australian Centre for Health Law Research at the Queensland University of Technology (QUT). He has published extensively in the area of health law, with a particular focus on end of life decision-making and adult guardianship law. Ben 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. He is presently undertaking a number of ARC and NHMRC funded studies examining law at the end of life.

About the Association

The Australasian Association of Bioethics and Health Law (AABHL) was formed in 2009.

It encourages open discussion and debate on a range of bioethical issues, providing a place where people can ask difficult questions about ideas and practices associated with health and illness, biomedical research and human values.

The AABHL seeks to foster a distinctive Australasian voice in bioethics, and provide opportunities for international engagement through its membership, journal and conferences.

Members come from all the contributing humanities, social science and science disciplines that make up contemporary bioethics.

Many members have cross-disciplinary interests and all seek to broaden the dialogues in which all members of the wider community ultimately have an interest.

The AABHL is a supportive, creative and challenging community that provides a rich source of continuing academic refreshment and renewal.

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