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Dignity in Dying commends Royal College of Nursing for issuing guidance on how to respond to patient requests for help to die

“The guidelines are not without their limitations – but this is inevitable when the very law on which they advise nurses is flawed”

The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) has today released the document When someone asks for your assistance to die; a guide for nurses about how to respond if a patient raises the issue of assistance to die with them.

Commenting, Sarah Wootton, Chief Executive of Dignity in Dying said:

“Dignity in Dying commends the RCN for proactively addressing this difficult and increasingly important issue. Evidence shows, and the RCN guidance acknowledges that there is considerable confusion among healthcare professionals as to what they ought and ought not to do under the current law and in light of the DPP’s guidance. The RCN is leading the way amongst the relevant Royal Colleges and the British Medical Association with such guidance, and we hope that the other professional bodies will follow suit.

“It is hugely important that dying adults can discuss their end of life choices with medical professionals – and this guidance reinforces that nurses can have this conversation with patients without passing judgment or offering advice about how to end their lives. At present there is a culture of secrecy around conversations about greater choice at the end of life, and this must change.

“While comprehensive, the guidelines are not without their limitations – but this is inevitable when the very law on which they advise nurses is flawed. Ultimately Dignity in Dying, along with 80% of the general public, believes that the law must change to allow dying adults the choice of assisted dying within strict legal safeguards. A change in the law would better protect patients and their treating healthcare professionals and provide greater choice and control for those suffering at the end of life.”


Notes to editor:

About Dignity in Dying:

  • Dignity in Dying campaigns for greater choice, control and access to services at the end of life. It advocates providing terminally ill adults with the option of an assisted death, within strict legal safeguards, and for universal access to high quality end-of-life care.
  • Dignity in Dying has over 25,000 supporters and receives its funding entirely from donations from the public.
  • The British Social Attitudes Survey 2010 found that 92% of non-religious and 71% of religious people support assisted dying. This relates to overall support of 82%.

Media Contacts:

For all Dignity in Dying media enquiries, please contact Jo Cartwright on 020 7479 7737 / 07725433025 or at