• April 19, 2024
 MPs highlight improved end-of-life care in assisted dying jurisdictions

MPs highlight improved end-of-life care in assisted dying jurisdictions

A recent Health and Social Care Select Committee report in the House of Commons reveals that countries allowing assisted dying have not seen a decline in end-of-life care.

There is evidence of enhanced support and increased funding in these areas. The committee, while not advocating for a change in English law, aims to stimulate informed discussion on the subject. Dame Esther Rantzen, a vocal advocate for the right to choose one’s end-of-life path, underscores the importance of legislative debate on assisted dying, citing personal reasons and her battle with stage four cancer. The report draws on examples from the US, Australia, Switzerland, and New Zealand, suggesting that legalising assisted dying can coexist with or even boost palliative care investment.

Dame Esther Rantzen has recently expressed profound gratitude to the 125,000 individuals who supported a petition advocating for the legalisation of assisted dying, following a commitment from the Government to not obstruct parliamentary efforts to change the law.

Current UK legislation, including the 1961 Suicide Act, criminalises assisting in another person’s death, complicating the choices for those, like Dame Esther, seeking control over their final moments. Despite her acknowledgment that change may not come in her lifetime, she remains hopeful for future shifts in legislation.

The report also sheds light on the journeys of over 250 individuals who have sought the services of the Dignitas clinic in Switzerland for assisted dying, emphasising the personal stories behind the statistics. Among them is Sophie Blake, who after a terminal breast cancer diagnosis, advocates for the option to end life on one’s own terms to spare loved ones from witnessing unbearable suffering.

Confusion among healthcare professionals regarding their role in assisted dying abroad is highlighted, with current guidelines offering conflicting advice. The committee calls for clarity and considers the implications for areas under UK jurisdiction contemplating legal changes, such as the Isle of Man and Jersey.

Chairman Steve Brine expressed a desire for the report to contribute to ongoing debates about the complexities of assisted dying, which the committee describes as a nuanced and contentious issue. The stance of medical bodies like the BMA and Royal College of Nursing remains neutral, reflecting the diversity of opinions within the medical community.

Government officials have indicated that any legislative changes would be decided through parliamentary vote, acknowledging the profound ethical, legal, and social implications of assisted dying. Critics, however, worry about potential expansions of eligibility criteria, fearing a slippery slope towards broader definitions of who qualifies for assisted dying.

Katie Johnson, Digital Journalist, Today's Media

Digital Journalist, Today's Media Contact: katie.johnson@todaysmedia.co.uk LinkedIn