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Our viewpoint on Assisted Dying Bill

14 August 2015

The Hospice of St Francis opposes the proposed change in the law as outlined in the Assisted Dying Bill 2014-5, due to be introduced in the House of Commons on September 11th 2015 led by Rob Marris MP.

The bill is set to enable competent adults who are terminally ill to be provided, at their own request, with specified assistance to end their own life.

It is the view of the Chairman and Board of Trustees, CEO and senior clinicians of The Hospice of St Francis that assisted dying is in direct conflict with the fundamental principles of hospice care for the following reasons:

  • We are committed to providing exemplary end of life care, the bedrock of which is kindness and compassion and does not include the act of hastening death. Assisted dying is completely different and must not be confused with good end of life care.

     

  • The Hospice of St Francis aspires to support as many people as possible who are reaching the end of their lives, or those who are affected by the death of a loved one. Improving choices and dignity for the majority who are dying by widening access to palliative care services should be the priority for hospice providers and society as opposed to legalising dying for a few.

     

  • The Hospice of St Francis believes there are insufficient safeguards in the proposed Assisted Dying bill most particularly regarding how the risk of coercion can possibly be eliminated, and what a “free and settled intention” really means. Since death is irrevocable, it is untenable for our Hospice to be involved with anything when the risk has such devastating consequences for vulnerable people.

  • The Hospice of St Francis prides itself on recruiting and retaining a compassionate and competent clinical workforce who are committed to providing good palliative care. We do not believe that our doctors should be put under pressure, if the law should change, to be complicit in judging whether a person’s prognosis is such to allow them to take their own life. We see this as a direct contravention of our duty of palliative care and would erode trust in basic principles of hospice care.
  • We are reliant upon local support to fund our work. We believe that this vital support could be steadily eroded were we expected to participate in assisted dying.

 

Steve Jamieson, CEO of The Hospice of St Francis added, “Rather than changing the laws for a vocal minority who want the ability to end their own life legalised, we believe that the Government should be investing in improving the availability and accessibility to good palliative care for all who need it, whether that be in a hospice, in a hospital, in a patient’s own home or in a care home.

“With better funding, hospices like ours would be able to reach more people who are dying to influence their care, and often earlier in a diagnosis.

“At our Hospice, we believe with good holistic, practical and compassionate care, hospice care enables patients with a life-limiting illness to manage symptoms and maintain a good quality of life, living confidently and well despite their illness and making the most of the time they have left.”

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