Assisted Dying Bill House of Lords – 22 October 2021
The APM is the world’s largest representative body for doctors practicing or interested in Palliative Medicine. We aim to ensure that no one need die in distress or discomfort for lack of access to adequate specialist palliative care. Baroness Meacher’s Bill seriously undermines this. We have offered the APM’s perspective because our members core practice is care for those at the end of life.
We do not comment on AD itself, but the substantial risks and consequences of legislating for doctors to be involved. The APM’s membership’s position on this, based on recent, independent polls, is clear.
“Assisting Dying” (AD) is a loose term that covers assisting suicide and administering euthanasia. Baroness Meacher’s Bill is vague, ambiguous, and silent on many key issues. This is remarkable for legislation that changes fundamentally a doctor’s duty of care:
- it contains no safeguards to exclude errors, bias, or criminality
- it leaves the door wide open to relaxing safeguards and eligibilities in the future, including bringing in euthanasia
- there is nothing in the Bill to protect people at vulnerable times in their lives, and particularly elderly or disabled people
- There is no attempt to fill the existing shortfall in specialist palliative care that experiences of bad deaths show to be so badly needed
The UK has led the world in the research and development of hospice and palliative care, pain and symptom control.
- Over 300 people a day in this country suffer unnecessarily due to lack of access to specialist palliative care services
- During the pandemic palliative care was widely called upon to help
- Despite this, it remains a statutory service that is neither funded nor commissioned across the NHS in any consistent form
- Most service funding is through voluntary donation
- AD Legislation also signals that the UK is abandoning efforts to improve care of the dying.
We have urged Parliamentarians to reject this Bill. Some of our concerns are outlined in the attached document here.
Dr Amy Proffitt, President Association for Palliative Medicine
Dr Rosie Bronnert, Chair Science and Ethics Committee Association for Palliative Medicine
Dr Jasmine Lee and Dr Simon Etkind, Co-chairs Trainees Committee Association for Palliative Medicine