Assisted dying: opening the flood gates or controlling the flow?

6361735901_c7cd4383b5_zDr Damien Bezzina is  a doctor at a large university hospital in the Midlands; he has a special interest in the care of older people, and holds a Diploma in Geriatric Medicine from the Royal College of Physicians. In this blog, he discusses the fallout from last year’s Falconer Bill on assisted dying.

I was watching the news on the 18th July 2014 when I heard about another Private Member’s Bill on assisted dying, put forward by Lord Falconer. A leading campaigner made the comment “Less suffering, not more deaths” and it made me think whether this is a true statement.

I believe strongly in care of the dying, and feel that we, as a medical profession, still widely miss the mark on ensuring we provide excellent care for patients who are coming to the end of their life. However, I’m not yet convinced that introducing an assisting dying law in the UK healthcare system as it stand is a good thing .

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Physician-assisted dying: the BGS, the RCP, and the law

David Oliver 2014 - 1David Oliver is the current President of the BGS, a visiting Fellow at the Kings Fund, and a consultant in geriatrics and acute general medicine at the Royal Berkshire NHS Foundation Trust.

In the wake of Lord Falconer’s Bill to legalise assisted dying for terminally ill patients in restricted circumstances, the Royal College of Physicians of London recently surveyed its members, asking them a number of questions regarding a possible change in the law.

As the biggest speciality within the college, BGS members were among those who responded. It’s the nature of our work as geriatricians that (alongside palliative care and oncology specialists) we spend a greater proportion of our working lives than most physicians dealing with planning, care and support towards the end of life, and supporting patients and their relatives through the final phase of their illness. So we have a key stake and keen interest in this question.

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