End of Life Law in Australia

About this website

End of Life Law in Australia provides accurate, practical and relevant information for patients, families, health and legal practitioners, the media, policymakers and the broader community about Australian laws relating to death, dying and end of life decision-making.

This website was developed by the Australian Centre for Health Law Research (ACHLR), Faculty of Law, Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane, Australia. Its authors are Professors Ben White and Lindy Willmott, Directors of the ACHLR, and Penny Neller, ACHLR Centre Coordinator. Much of the content on this website is based on Health Law in Australia (2nd ed), edited by Ben White, Fiona McDonald and Lindy Willmott. The website was prompted by, and draws on, the End-of-Life Law and Policy in Canada website created by Professor Jocelyn Downie and colleagues from the Health Law Institute, Dalhousie University, Canada.

As Australia’s population rapidly ages, legal and ethical issues at the end of life are arising more frequently. Research shows the law in this area is complex and often confusing for patients, families and health professionals, and that barriers to accessible information exist. Our goal is to support the community to know, and better understand, the law at end of life, enhance patient and family participation in decision-making, and improve end of life experiences.

The End of Life Law in Australia website seeks to assist people at all stages of life whether they are dealing with an end of life situation personally, or educating themselves about the law in this area. It addresses some frequently asked questions such as:

  • Who makes medical treatment decisions for a person who is too unwell to make decisions themselves?
  • Does a doctor have to follow the instructions in an advance directive?
  • Can a dying patient or their family refuse or demand medical treatment needed to keep the patient alive?
  • Is euthanasia and assisted suicide legal in Australia?
  • Can a child with a terminal illness make their own medical treatment decisions?
  • What happens if family members disagree with a person’s decision to donate their organs when they die?

Laws relating to death, dying and decision-making can be complicated, and vary between Australian States and Territories. To help you navigate these laws and this website, the legal overview summarises key concepts. Where possible, this website provides external links to relevant publications, forms, organisations and other resources in each Australian State and Territory

The authors of this website acknowledge and thank Professor Jocelyn Downie and the Dalhousie Health Law Institute, Mark Eade, Stephanie Jowett, Dr Loretta de Plevitz, Dr Andrew McGee, Dr Shih-Ning Then, Leana Sanders, Juliet Davis, Elizabeth Dallaston, the Office of the Public Advocate Victoria, the Office of the Public Guardian Tasmania, the Office of the Public Advocate Western Australia, the Office of the Public Advocate South Australia and the Public Guardian New South Wales for their assistance in developing End of Life Law in Australia. Any errors in the material on this website are the responsibility of the website authors.

To receive updates about recent developments in the law at end of life, please email achlr@qut.edu.au with ‘subscribe website’ in the subject line.