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Victorian health practitioners warned against medicating aged care residents without informed consent

Victorian health practitioners warned against medicating aged care residents without informed consent

By LIV Media


Law Institute of Victoria president, Stuart Webb and chair of the LIV Elder Law Section Bill O’Shea have warned Victorian health practitioners not to treat aged care residents with prescription pharmaceuticals without first obtaining informed consent.

“Following evidence to the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety there has been debate about whether residential aged care facilities and the health practitioners who treat residents should obtain consent before treating residents with prescription pharmaceuticals, and in particular, anti-psychotic medications,” Mr Webb said.

“Let there be no doubt about what the law requires in Victoria. If the resident has capacity to consent to medical treatment, then the health practitioner must first obtain informed consent from the resident. If the resident lacks this capacity, the health practitioner must obtain consent from the resident’s medical treatment decision-maker. If they cannot identify a medical treatment decision-maker, they should contact the Office of the Public Advocate for consent,” he said.

“Our Elder Law Section members are reporting that many health practitioners don’t seem to be aware of the requirements in the Medical Treatment Planning and Decisions Act 2016 (Vic) which became law in Victoria in March last year,” Bill O’Shea said.

“This Act has changed the law in Victoria. It defines medical treatment to include treatment by prescription pharmaceuticals and that means a health practitioner must get informed consent before providing this form of treatment,” he said.

“A health practitioner who treats a resident with prescription pharmaceuticals without first getting informed consent commits medical trespass and faces civil liability as well as a charge of professional misconduct at AHPRA,” he added.

“Health practitioners should understand that Victoria differs from some other states in that treatment with pharmaceuticals is at law, medical treatment, and they ignore the law at their peril,” Mr Webb said.

Health practitioners as defined in the Act include all the health professions that are regulated by AHPRA, including doctors, nurses, physiotherapists, pharmacists, psychologists and paramedics.

“Victorian residential aged care facilities must stop administering prescription medications to residents – and especially anti-psychotic medications - if they have not obtained prior consent. The Royal Commission has revealed what we already suspected.

“Too often, anti-psychotic drugs are used covertly to control behaviour and save on staff costs. It doesn’t matter what the Commonwealth Aged Care Minister has to say or what the Charter of Aged Care Rights says or doesn’t say, the law is clear in Victoria. Health practitioners must obtain informed consent or face the consequences,” Mr O’Shea said.

Contact: Kerry O’Shea, Public Affairs Manager M: 0408 727 279 or Amanda Rajendra Media and Communications Officer T: 03 9607 9597 E:

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