Rural students take the lead on Voluntary Assisted Dying

Due to the Voluntary Assisted Dying (VAD) Act (2017) commencing on 19 June, and a request from Professor Julian Wright, Head of Department of Rural Health and Director of Medical Student Education, we held an educational session in "the chalet" at Wangaratta on 22 May, to ensure our students were up to date with the implications of the new law.

The session was divided into two parts, the first being a modified version of the "life & death symposium" and the second being a modified version of the Ethical Practice tutorial "End of Life Issues".

The supplied "life & death symposium" presentation was condensed and edited to allow inclusion of information about VAD.

This allowed presentation of VAD information in the broader context of ageing, dying and end of life care in general.

Interaction was encouraged by incorporating the use of PollEverywhere to allow anonymous questions and comments on these issues.

Short videos were used to convey some powerful messages, contributing to the discussion of "a good death".

As death is a potentially sensitive issue "safety slide" was used as an alert at the start and options for support were mentioned too.

Groups 2D and 2E post debate, The Chalet (Wangaratta)
Groups 2D and 2E post debate, The Chalet (Wangaratta)

The MD2 students (two groups are based in Wangaratta for the year) took control for the second session.

There were three students assigned to lead the 90 minute session to enable participation of all students in the combined group.

They were divided into affirmative and negative teams for a debate on: VAD is an appropriate treatment option for this case (the scenario developed by students).

Robust, entertaining and respectful debate took place.

It was particularly challenging for those arguing against their personal beliefs but allowed consideration of multiple points of view.

It was gratifying, as a tutor, to hear both sides use terms and concepts (e.g. autonomy, justice, non-maleficence…) that was discussed earlier in the year, to prosecute their arguments.

At the end of the day the students awarded themselves a treat – hence the ice-creams in the group photo.

The winning side remains confidential.

Dr Margi Gould
EP2 tutor 2E

Dr Felicity Brettig
EP2 tutor 2D

Dr Steve Bismire
Deputy Director Medical Student Education & ERC Hub Educator
The Department of Rural Health