Professor Ben White is an Australian Research Council Future Fellow (Professorial level, 2020-2023) in the Australian Centre for Health Law Research at the Faculty of Law, Queensland University of Technology. His area of research focus is end-of-life decision-making with a particular focus on voluntary assisted dying.
Ben graduated with first class Honours and a University Medal in Law from the Queensland University of Technology. He was awarded a Rhodes Scholarship to complete a DPhil at Oxford University, where his doctoral thesis investigated the role that consultation plays in the law reform process. Before joining the Law School, he worked as an Associate at the Supreme Court of Queensland and at Legal Aid Queensland. Between 2005 and 2007, Ben was appointed as the full-time Commissioner of the Queensland Law Reform Commission where he had carriage of the Guardianship Review on behalf of the Commission. He also served as a part-time Commissioner between 2007 and 2010.
Ben was a foundation Director of the Australian Centre for Health Law Research for six years (2013-2018). He still co-leads the End of Life Research Program within the Centre. Ben has published over 100 book chapters and journal articles in the area of health law, with a particular focus on end-of-life decision-making. His work is interdisciplinary with publications in law, medicine, bioethics, social science and psychology journals as well as those that have an interdisciplinary focus. He is an editor of the leading text Health Law in Australia (2018, 3rd ed, Thomson).
Ben has been part of interdisciplinary teams that have been awarded over $40 million in the field of end-of-life decision-making, including from the Australian Research Council, the National Health and Medical Research Council and Commonwealth and State governments.
His five Australian Research Council grants have examined different aspects of law, policy and practice at the end of life. Key topics investigated include: What role does law play in medical decision-making? To what extent do doctors know and follow the law? Why is medical treatment that is futile/non-beneficial provided to patients at the end of life? How many people make a will or engage in advance care planning and why? What does the community know about the law of end-of-life decision-making? Do patients and families know their rights and responsibilities when making end-of-life decisions?
Ben is currently undertaking a four-year full-time Australian Research Council Future Fellowship (2020-2023) that aims to develop a new and holistic approach to regulating voluntary assisted dying. This project will enhance end-of-life care in Australia through better regulation and will draw on Canadian and Belgian case studies.
Ben is a Chief Investigator on two National Health and Medical Research Council projects: one is examining Victoria’s new voluntary assisted dying legislation and the other involves an intervention to address futile or non-beneficial treatment at the end of life. He has also been an Associate Investigator on two Centres of Research Excellence, one in End-of-Life Care and the other on Chronic Kidney Disease.
Ben is also currently undertaking funded training and research programs about end-of-life law. One is the legislatively-mandated training that doctors must complete before being involved in voluntary assisted dying (funded by the Victorian Government). Another is a national program funded by the Commonwealth Department of Health on doctor’s knowledge of law at the end of life called End of Life Law for Clinicians. He also contributes to the Commonwealth Government-funded End of Life Directions for Aged Care project.
Ben’s legal research is publicly available through the End of Life Law in Australia website (co-authored with Lindy Willmott and Penny Neller). This site aims to provide accessible information about law at the end of life for patients, families, health and legal practitioners, the media, policymakers and the broader community.