Can a doctor help me die?

It is against the law for a doctor to deliberately help you end your life. If you are considering ending your life we strongly recommend that you talk to your doctor or other healthcare professionals about your care and support you are receiving.  They may be able to do more to help you manage your illness, or be able to refer you to local end of life care specialists.

 

Double effect

If you are suffering from an illness, doctors may prescribe and administer pain relief. In some cases doctors administer high amounts of pain relief to alleviate pain while at the same time knowing this could hasten the death of the patient. The intention of the doctor is to relieve pain even though death is foreseeable. This is called the doctrine of double effect and it is lawful. The key point is that the doctor intended to relieve pain, not to end life.

Research shows that around one fifth of people who die every year receive pain relief which may have accelerated their death.

Under the law the doctor’s actions are judged by their intentions. If the patient asks their doctor for help to die, and the doctor helps using pain relief medication, the doctrine of double effect will no longer apply. Even if the doctor acted compassionately they risk of being prosecuted for assisted suicide or murder.

 

The prosecuting policy on assisted suicide

In February 2010, the Crown Prosecution Service published a prosecuting policy on assisted suicide, which explains how decisions on whether to prosecute cases of assisted suicide are taken, and the factors that make prosecution more or less likely.

One of the factors that makes a prosecution more likely is if a doctor, nurse or other healthcare professional assists someone in their care to end their life.

There is more information on the prosecuting policy here.

 

If you are thinking of ending your life

If you are considering ending your life, we strongly recommend that you talk to your attending health professionals about the care and support you are receiving. It may be that there is more that can be done do to help you manage your condition and symptoms.

You may also wish to speak to a support organisation such as the Samaritans about your feelings. You can contact the Samaritans by telephone on 08457 90 90 90, by email to jo@samaritans.org or by writing to them at:

Chris,

PO Box 9090,

Stirling,

FK8 2SA.

For more information you can also contact us.