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Assisted dying assisted suicide Disability Euthanasia

New Inquiry on Assisted Suicide launched

The Health and Social Care Committee has launched a new inquiry to examine different perspectives in the debate on assisted dying/assisted suicide.

The inquiry will explore the arguments across the debate with a focus on the healthcare aspects of assisted dying/assisted suicide. It intends to consider the role of medical professionals, access to palliative care, what protections would be needed to safeguard against coercion, and the criteria for eligibility to access assisted dying/assisted suicide services. MPs will also look at what can be learnt from international experiences.

Evidence sessions are expected to begin in the new year 2023. MPs will make their recommendations to the government on the next steps in a report following the inquiry.

We urge all of our supporters to contact their MPs to explain why the present law should be retained.

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Assisted dying assisted suicide Euthanasia

Assisted Suicide Post Brief 47

This is a summary of a report on Assisted Dying compiled for the UK Parliament. Zeynab Al-Khero a researcher for Not Dead Yet UK, contributed to the report.

If you want to read the complete report, click this link  Assisted Dying Report

Summary

There is no consensus on which terminology to use when debating the issue of whether people should be legally permitted to seek assistance with ending their lives. A range of terms are used internationally, and the choice of term often reflects underlying views on the debate. The terms used in this briefing are not intended to endorse or reflect any particular stance on the debate about changing the law.

‘Assisted dying’ refers here to the involvement of healthcare professionals in the provision of lethal drugs intended to end a patient’s life at their voluntary request, subject to eligibility criteria and safeguards. It includes healthcare professionals prescribing lethal drugs for the patient to self-administer (‘physician-assisted suicide’) and healthcare professionals administering lethal drugs (‘euthanasia’).

It is an offence (in England and Wales) to assist or encourage another person’s suicide under section 2(1) of the Suicide Act 1961. Euthanasia is illegal across the UK under the Homicide Act 1957 and could be prosecuted as murder or manslaughter.

This POST brief provides a brief overview of assisted dying, including ethical debate and stakeholder opinion. It examines how assisted dying functions within health services in countries where it is a legal option, focusing on jurisdictions where most data are available on outcomes: Belgium, Canada, the Netherlands, Oregon (United States), Switzerland and Victoria (Australia). It also covers evidence and expert opinion on key practical considerations that are raised in the context of assisted dying.

Further information on the criminal law on assisted suicide (a subset of assisted dying), human rights challenges and previous parliamentary activity is provided in the Commons Library briefing on The law on assisted suicide.

Key points

Key ethical debate centres on autonomy and the protection of vulnerable groups. Robust data on UK public perspectives on assisted dying and variations between different groups are limited. Public understanding of the term ‘assisted dying’ is low in the UK, but some recent UK polls and surveys suggest that a majority of the UK public support some form of assisted dying.

Several medical bodies are opposed, while others have moved from opposing assisted dying to a position of neutrality, meaning that they neither support nor oppose a change in UK law.

No medical Royal College has expressed support for changing the law on assisted dying in the UK.

At the time of writing, some form of assisted dying is legal in at least 27 jurisdictions worldwide. Legislation on eligibility and governance of assisted dying varies:

  • In almost all jurisdictions, it is restricted to adults (including Canada, Oregon, Switzerland and Victoria), while in a few it can also include children with parental consent (including Belgium and the Netherlands).
  • In some jurisdictions, assisted dying is restricted to people with a terminal illnesses (including Oregon and Victoria). In others, it can also be accessed by those experiencing “constant and unbearable” suffering that cannot be relieved but who are not terminally ill. This can be restricted to suffering arising from serious physical illness only (including Canada until 2023), or also include those whose suffering arises from psychiatric illness (including Belgium, Canada from 2023 and the Netherlands).
  • In many jurisdictions where it is a legal option, assisted dying is provided as part of the healthcare system; in Switzerland, it is not part of the healthcare system.
  • Recent official data show that use in different jurisdictions varies. For example, recorded deaths from assisted dying were 0.59% of the total deaths in Oregon in 2021 and 4.2% of the total deaths in the Netherlands in 2019. Research suggests that there is underreporting of assisted dying in some jurisdictions where it is a legal option. Official figures show increasing use over time.Research and stakeholders highlight a range of key practical considerations in the context of assisted dying. Many of these issues are interrelated and are raised in ethical debates:
  • There are different perspectives on whether it is difficult to prevent incremental extension of legislation and eligibility criteria once assisted dying is legalised and whether this is perceived as a concern or as removing barriers to access.
  • Determining prognosis of terminal illness can be difficult and there is debate on how to evaluate whether suffering is “constant and unbearable”. For patients with mental disorders, debate also focuses on how to assess whether suffering is irremediable or whether it could be relieved over time.
  • Assessing patients’ mental capacity for assisted dying requests is complex and can be particularly challenging where the person has psychiatric disorders, such as severe depression, which can impair decision-making capacity. There is also debate on who is best placed to assess capacity and identify potential coercion. The practice of relying on advance directives to authorise euthanasia and the use of assisted dying in those aged under 18 years is controversial.
  • There are limited empirical data on the impact of assisted dying on vulnerable groups, including older people and people with disabilities, in jurisdictions where it is legal. Available studies do not report evidence that assisted dying has a disproportionate impact on vulnerable groups. However, concerns about potential abuses in some jurisdictions have been reported in academic literature and several studies have called for detailed monitoring of assisted dying practice and further research.
  • There is debate on whether assisting dying is compatible with the role of healthcare professionals. Research on the effects of their involvement in assisted dying on healthcare professionals in jurisdictions where it is a legal part of healthcare suggests that healthcare professionals have a range of experiences, both positive and negative.
  • None of the drugs used for assisted dying are approved by a regulatory authority for medicines for a lethal purpose. There is not consensus on the most effective drug or drug combination for ending a human life and specific drugs, doses and monitoring vary.
  • There is very limited research on the social and cultural impact of legalising assisted dying.
  • There is debate on whether legalising assisted dying has an adverse or beneficial impact on palliative and end of life care (P&EOLC) resources and services. Evidence is mixed and suggests that the relationship between P&EOLC and assisted dying is varied and that impacts in any jurisdiction may not be the same as in other jurisdictions, even within the same country.
Categories
Assisted dying assisted suicide Disability Euthanasia

Watch out for assisted suicide by the back door

Ahead of the debate on amendments to the Health and Social Care Bill in the House of Lords, Baroness Jane Campbell reflects on the dangers of new legislation which could  introduce assisted suicide by the back door.’

Few would argue there’s an awful lot to be worried about at the moment. As disabled people, we have a particular focus on a number of things, whether it’s the unwillingness of the government to support us during the pandemic, difficulties getting the health and social care we need and an increase in the costs of living that are making tight budgets even tighter.

This week the House of Lords is back debating the Health and Social Care Bill, which has many implications for disabled people but now has a new threat – assisted suicide by the back door.

The Conservative peer Lord Forsyth has thrown a googly into proceedings by tabling an amendment to the bill which would see draft legislation to allow terminally ill people to end their lives with medical assistance.

Lord Forsyth

This is a cynical attempt by those in favour of changing the law on assisted suicide to attach a rider to new legislation which has the backing of the government. This is at a time when there is already an Assisted Dying Bill before the House of Lords, which is now waiting in the queue for thorough scrutiny.

It is wrong to use parliamentary procedure to try to impose new legal requirements on the (quite literally) life and death issue of assisted suicide into the substance of other legislation.

A debate about assisted suicide needs a detailed and rigorous approach. We need thoughtful and informed debate, with evidence from experts from across the opinion spectrum and an understanding of the impact of assisted suicide legislation from other countries. We need to carefully examine how people are treated at the end of their lives in this country, what options should be available to them and why it is people are often not getting the palliative care they need. 

It is a controversial issue about which most of us have strong opinions. Last year the British Medical Association became neutral on the matter by a wafer-thin majority. Palliative care doctors argue strongly that the current law should remain as it is. The recent debate in the House of Lords saw a near 50/50 split of those in favour and those against. 

In the meantime, legislators need to listen carefully to disabled people. We are concerned that changes to the law which open the door to assisted suicide will lead to pressure on us to take the lethal (and cheap) way out.

Instead of the thoughtful analysis needed, we get a distracting amendment from Lord Forsyth to government-sponsored legislation which allows for nothing of the kind. This type of political hijacking is unhelpful and unwarranted, and a waste of parliamentary time.

The Health and Social Care bill is an important piece of law that will impact services delivered to disabled people and incorporate a massive shakeup to the way our NHS is organised. It will also see the biggest changes in how people and their families have to pay for social care services that we have seen for decades. It will not only affect millions of disabled people. It will affect the vast majority of those who live in this country.

Parliament should spend its time and resources on scrutinising this bill in the appropriate way. We should not have to deal with the distraction of politicians attempting to manipulate the way Parliament works. Trying to sneak in such a fundamental change in the way we consider the end of life issues is wrong. I hope that Lord Forsyth will reconsider and withdraw his amendment.

Jane Campbell is a crossbench peer and co-founder of Not Dead Yet.

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Assisted dying assisted suicide Euthanasia Mental Health

Euthanasia and Psychiatric issues

Research findings from Holland

A recent research report published in Holland that focussed on euthanasia and people managing mental health conditions reveals some worrying findings.


Summary
Of patients requesting an assisted death:

  • Most were aged 21-60, some as young as 12 (p27)
  • Most were women (60% vs 40%), especially in the 41-50yr age group, a higher proportion than the population. (p28)
  • 40% had a low educational level, compared with 29% of the population.(p28)
  • There were more single people (70% compared with 48% in the general population) (p30)
  • Depression was the commonest diagnosis (26.6%)(p35)
  • In men under 30yrs, ‘Neurological developmental disorder eg. autism spectrum disorder, was the commonest diagnosis (p36)
  • Of the women under 30yrs three women changed their minds immediately before being given the IV drug.(p37)
  • In women under 30yrs, ‘depressive mood disorder’ was the commonest diagnosis, with a ‘neurological behavioural disorder’ as a diagnosis in five..(p38)
  • ‘Personality disorders’ were the commonest psychiatric ‘co-morbidity’.(p47)
  • 20-50% of individuals had chemical dependency issues.(p47)
  • 48 men (48/788 – 6%) and 235 women (235/788)- 29.8%) women reported previous sexual abuse.(p49)

Follow this link to go to the full report. https://bit.ly/340CLkc

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