Looking At: Assisted Dying

Article originally published in 2016.

Authored by Jay Harris.


Should Assisted Dying be legal?

Assisted dying is when a mentally competent adult that is terminally ill has the legal power to make their own choice to end their life through lethal, prescribed medication. In September 2015, Members of Parliament rejected a Private Members’ Bill put forward by Labour MP Rob Marris, who suggested that current legislation did not meet the needs of terminally ill patients, and that a change “would provide more protection for the living and more choice for the dying”. However, Conservative MP Caroline Spelman stated during the Commons debate that legalising assisted dying “would not only legitimise suicide, but promote the participation of others in it”.

The views presented herein have been obtained via research, and come from the perspectives of the campaigning organisation; Dignity in Dying and Conservative life peer Lord Ribeiro.

Dignity in Dying:

Assisted dying should be legal

Terminally ill patients will suffer towards the end of their life without having a say whether they would like to end their life in dignity and pain-free circumstances. (Source: http://www.dignityindying.org.uk/about-us/)

By legalising assisted dying, terminally ill people will have greater protection from coercion and abuse before their death through the introduction of up-front safeguards, meaning that any patient that requests professional assistance to die will need to be strictly examined by two different doctors and a High Court judge. (Source: http://www.dignityindying.org.uk/assisted-dying/safeguards/)

Many dying adults, due to not having the legal support of assisted dying, attempt to take their own life by refusing to eat food or drink water and sometimes ask close family and friends to help end their life. This can be very undignified for loved ones, and not a memory that family will want to remember in years to come. (Source: http://www.dignityindying.org.uk/about-us/)

Lord Ribeiro:

Assisted dying should not be legal

The vast majority of doctors would not be willing to help end the life of a terminally ill patient, suggesting there would be a shortage of able and qualified doctors to assist in dying. A survey last year of 1000 doctors showed that, only one in seven doctors would be willing to consider a request for assisted suicide and only one in nine would be prepared to use the lethal drugs required and oversee the patient’s death. (Source: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/assisted-dying/11857701/Assisted-suicide-or-assisted-dying-has-no-place-in-our-healthcare-system-doctors-dont-want-it.html)

A lot of the time, doctors are not socially familiar enough with the personal circumstances of patients in order to make an informed decision whether to assist in a patient’s death, as they regularly do not know whether stress at home or the workplace may influence their request. (Source: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/assisted-dying/11857701/Assisted-suicide-or-assisted-dying-has-no-place-in-our-healthcare-system-doctors-dont-want-it.html)

The bill put forward in Parliament last September did not require doctors to do their own research prior to putting forward their judgement to the Court. Doctors were only required to be “satisfied” that patients meet all the particular criteria, not to offer an expert opinion. (Source: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/assisted-dying/11857701/Assisted-suicide-or-assisted-dying-has-no-place-in-our-healthcare-system-doctors-dont-want-it.html)

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