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Voluntary assisted dying in Australia and New Zealand: Exploring the potential for nurse practitioners to assess eligibility

  • Jayne Hewitt
    Correspondence
    Corresponding author at: Griffith University, School of Nursing and Midwifery, Parklands Drive, Southport, Gold Coast, QLD 4222, Australia.
    Affiliations
    Griffith University, School of Nursing and Midwifery, Parklands Drive, Southport, QLD 4222, Queensland, Australia

    Griffith University, Law Futures Centre, Parklands Drive, Southport, QLD 4222, Queensland, Australia
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  • Laurie Grealish
    Affiliations
    Griffith University, School of Nursing and Midwifery, Parklands Drive, Southport, QLD 4222, Queensland, Australia

    Gold Coast Hospital and Health Service, I Hospital Blvd, Southport, QLD 4215, Gold Coast, Australia

    Menzies Health Institute, Griffith University, Parklands Drive, Southport, QLD 4222, Queensland, Australia
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  • Ann Bonner
    Affiliations
    Griffith University, School of Nursing and Midwifery, Parklands Drive, Southport, QLD 4222, Queensland, Australia

    Gold Coast Hospital and Health Service, I Hospital Blvd, Southport, QLD 4215, Gold Coast, Australia

    Menzies Health Institute, Griffith University, Parklands Drive, Southport, QLD 4222, Queensland, Australia

    Metro North Hospital and Health Service, Cnr Butterfield St and Bowen Bridge Road, Herston, QLD 4029, Brisbane, Australia

    Kidney Health Service, Metro North Hospital and Health Service, Cnr Butterfield St and Bowen Bridge Road, Herston, QLD 4029, Brisbane, Australia
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      Abstract

      Background

      The enactment of laws that permit voluntary assisted dying reflects community views about end-of-life choices for those who are suffering and dying and includes a commitment to equitable access. Australian and New Zealand voluntary assisted dying frameworks are embedded in healthcare and authorise medical practitioners to assess whether a person meets prescribed eligibility criteria for access to voluntary assisted dying.

      Aim

      In this article, we argue that including nurse practitioners as assessing practitioners in Australian and New Zealand voluntary assisted dying frameworks can promote equitable access.

      Method

      We demonstrate that nurse practitioners have the required education and skillset to assess eligibility, eligibility assessment is within their scope of practice, and recent evidence demonstrates that they may be more likely to participate in voluntary assisted dying than medical practitioners. Reviewing information relied on by lawmakers, we highlight the cursory consideration given to roles for nurse practitioners, and that their exclusion from assessing eligibility has not been justified.

      Conclusion

      As new voluntary assisted dying laws are implemented in health services across Australia and New Zealand, research on the actual and potential contribution of nurse practitioners must be undertaken and reported. This will make it more likely that there is evidence to inform decisions about whether including nurse practitioners as assessing practitioners is feasible and necessary as laws are reviewed.

      Keywords

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