Assisted dying campaigners renew calls for change in law
New research by a charity campaigning for assisted dying has revealed that 11 Scottish patients a week will suffer as they die, despite access to the best palliative care.
The Dignity in Dying Scotland report also reveals that 41 per cent of the public and 46 per cent of healthcare professionals have either witnessed or cared for someone suffering unbearably at the end of their life.
Meanwhile, only 14 per cent of the Scottish healthcare professionals surveyed believe there are currently sufficient options to give dying people control over their death, and just six per cent of people think the ban on assisted dying is working well.
These figures come as Dignity in Dying Scotland launches a new report, The Inescapable Truth About Dying, which uncovers the suffering experienced by a significant minority of Scots in their final months, weeks and days and makes the case for a change in the law on assisted dying.
The report includes new research from the Office of Health Economics, which concludes that even if every dying person who needed it had access to the level of care provided in hospices, 591 people a year, equivalent to 11 people a week, would still have no relief of their pain in their final three months life.
Through the personal testimonies of dying people, bereaved relatives and healthcare professionals, the report examines symptoms that can go unrelieved for many people despite access to high quality palliative care, such as severe pain, extreme nausea and fungating wounds.
It also considers the ethical complexity and limits of some of the end-of-life options currently available in the UK, including Voluntary Stopping Eating and Drinking (VSED), withdrawal of treatment and palliative sedation.
Ally Thomson, director of Dignity in Dying Scotland, said: “The experiences outlined in this report are truly harrowing. It is not an easy read. We fully support improved funding for and access to palliative care, but the testimonies in the report show that even the best care has limits.
“This is the inescapable truth that can no longer be glossed over or explained away: that even with universal access to palliative care, a significant minority of Scots will still experience unbearable and unrelieved suffering as they die.
“They are the collateral damage of a prohibition on assisted dying in Scotland.
“This new research makes clear that more and better palliative care would not negate the need for assisted dying, and that assisted dying is no more ethically complex than the end of life options currently available.
“Rather, assisted dying presents a safe, humane option which, alongside improvements to existing practices, would increase the quality of life and death for a great many terminally ill, mentally competent Scots.”
Thomson added: “In the face of our new research, overwhelming public support for a change in the law on assisted dying and an ever increasing number of jurisdictions around the world embracing such a change, it is imperative that the Scottish Parliament acts soon and introduces a compassionate and safe alternative to prolonged suffering for our dying citizens.”