Palliative care and assisted dying are not mutually exclusive, says ethics professor
Bobbie Farsides, Professor of Clinical and Biomedical Ethics at Brighton and Sussex Medical School (BSMS), argues in The BMJ today that palliative care and assisted dying are not incompatible.
Her commentary appears alongside a number of articles exploring the debate around assisted dying, by which, subject to safeguards, terminally ill people who are near to death, suffering, and of sound mind, could ask for drugs that they would take to end their lives.
“As we become more aware of death, and the concept of a good death, I think it’s time that we accepted the fact that assisted dying is not incompatible with excellent palliative care,” says Professor Farsides.
“I would challenge the belief that the wish of patients with terminal and life-limiting illnesses to die at a particular time in a particular way can be ‘cared away’, however great the skill of the professionals involved in this care.”
An important debate is happening in wider society, she says. “Patients are more aware than ever of the concept of assisted dying, and what is and is not, possible for them as they approach the end of their lives. It’s vital that practitioners are prepared for the questions they might raise and able to respond compassionately.
“I would urge professionals to consider the possibility that in future laws around assisted dying may change, and to consider how they might negotiate such a future in the best interests of their patients.”
Professor Farsides’ commentary sits alongside articles calling for the British Medical Association (BMA) to poll its members or stop opposing assisted dying, personal accounts by a Dutch doctor who has helped terminally ill patients to die and a British patient who wants assisted dying, and a debate on the question: should doctor assisted dying be legal?
BSMS is a partnership between the Universities of Sussex and Brighton together with NHS organisations throughout the south-east region.