End of Life Law - Mythbusters Withholding and Withdrawing Life-Sustaining Treatment

Mythbusters: Withholding and Withdrawing Life-Sustaining Medical Treatment

Myth 1:

A person or their substitute decision-maker cannot refuse treatment needed to keep the person alive

No. The law allows all adults with capacity to decide what is, or is not done to their bodies. They can consent to or refuse medical treatment. Therefore, a person can refuse medical treatment even if that treatment is needed to keep them alive.

Myth 2:

A health professional who withholds or withdraws life-sustaining treatment performs euthanasia or physician-assisted suicide

No. A health professional does not perform euthanasia or physician-assisted suicide by withholding or withdrawing treatment even if that treatment is needed to keep the person alive.

Euthanasia or physician-assisted suicide occurs when the health professional intends to bring about a person’s death by actively administering a drug to the person, or providing the drug for the person to take.

Withholding and withdrawing life-sustaining treatment is an accepted and common part of medical practice. It will be lawful provided any necessary consents are obtained. When life-sustaining treatment is withheld or withdrawn, the person is considered to have died naturally from their medical condition or disease..

Page updated 1 June 2021