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Doctors and assisted dying – the medical argument for change

The current law is far less safe than it would be if we did have a law allowing assistance to die

Professor Raymond Tallis, Dignity in Dying supporter and Chair of HPAD (Healthcare Professionals for Assisted Dying), took part in a BBC Radio Humberside debate recently with the Christian Medical Fellowship CEO, Peter Saunders.

They discussed the arguments for and against legalising assisted dying and the programme can be accessed, for a limited time, on the BBC Radio Humberside site (it starts from about 27mins 30 seconds in).

The debate was in response to a Daily Mail story about the broadcaster Joan Bakewell who called for further discussion into assisted dying and told the paper that she carried a ‘Do Not Resuscitate Card’.

One of Professor Tallis’ key arguments for change was the unsuitability of the present law which, he says, allows for a lot of ‘informal’ assistance to die.

Medical argument for change

Originally opposed to the campaign, Professor Tallis was later convinced by the clinical, legal and ethical arguments for a change in the law.

Death from dehydration and starvation in patients, who have no means of securing an end to their suffering other than by refusing food and fluids, or botched suicides, reflect the unspeakable cruelty of the present law

Professor Tallis discusses his arguments in more detail in a blog post about how his experience as a geriatrician led him to the conclusion that assisted dying is the right thing to do.

He also discusses the evidence that a similar law is working to protect the vulnerable and maintain optimum levels of palliative care in countries like Oregon, and how an assisted dying law would inhibit rather than enable a ‘slippery slope’:

…if there is a slippery slope, legislation would apply crampons rather than skis

Are you a healthcare professional?

HPAD membership is free for all practicing, studying and retired healthcare professionals. If you fit the criteria please help by joining now and by sharing with anyone you know who would be eligible.

HPAD has three main aims:

To change medical culture –For those with terminal conditions, the dying process is not a failure of the healthcare team or the patient, but it does become a failure if the patient suffers an undignified death.

To change the law – the law must change to provide safeguarded greater choice at the end of life, ensuring that within reason the wishes of terminally ill, mentally competent adults are respected.

To change clinical practice – assisted dying should be just one of many options at the end of life. Those wanting an assisted death should be supported.

As a HPAD member you will have the ability to make a unique difference to the success of the campaign