Campaigners call for better investment in palliative care as alternative to legalising assisted dying

Our Duty of Care is due to meet with MSPs to put forward the case against a bill to legalised assisted dying
Our Duty of Care says more should be invested in palliative care rather than legalising assisted dying in Scotland.Our Duty of Care says more should be invested in palliative care rather than legalising assisted dying in Scotland.
Our Duty of Care says more should be invested in palliative care rather than legalising assisted dying in Scotland.

A group campaigning against proposals to legalise assisted dying says the Scottish Government needs to invest more in palliative care.

Our Duty of Care says there are more MSPs in Scotland than there are specialist palliative care doctors, and the solution is to put more cash into hospices and medical specialists rather than legalising assisted dying.

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The group are due to hold an event with MSPs in Holyrood on Thursday, where they will state their case against assisted dying, saying the current law prohibiting “medical killing” safeguards everyone.

MSPs are due to consider a bill from Lib Dem MSP Liam McArthur shortly, which proposes making assisted dying legal in Scotland for adults who are terminally ill, but still mentally competent.

Those who want to see this legislation introduced say it will give people the ability to choose to have a safe and compassionate death rather than enduring a prolonged and painful death.

However those campaigning against the bill say it undermines palliative care and the risks are too high.

This is the third time Holyrood has been asked to consider legalising assisted dying - the late independent MSP Margo MacDonald brought forward a bill on this back in 2010.

She died from Parkinson’s Disease in 2014, and co-leader of the Scottish Greens Patrick Harvie brought it back to parliament for a second time in 2015.

On both occasions Holyrood decided there were significant flaws in the bills and they were rejected.

Dr Gillian Wright, a former palliative care doctor and member of Our Duty of Care, is one of the campaigners due to speak to MSPs on Thursday.

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She says many palliative care doctors who look after terminally ill patients are opposed to assisted dying and “will leave their jobs” if this legislation is introduced.

Dr Wright said: “Instead of allowing people to kill themselves we desperately need to invest our resources, creativity, ideas and funding not in helping people die but in helping them live until they die.

“Nobody wants to see anyone suffer at the end.

“We are all distressed by accounts of those in pain or who have other uncontrolled symptoms as they confront death.

“So the nation faces the profound question of how to respond - do we allow patients to end their lives with medical help because we fail to provide the end of life care they need?”

She says there are “huge gaps” in palliative care provision and access to high-quality care is “sadly inadequate”.

Our Duty of Care says the government needs to make a “major financial commitment” to fund Macmillan nurses, occupational therapists and physiotherapists, adding Scotland only has two palliative care psychologists.

Dr Wright added: “Let’s say no to helping people to take their own lives.

“Instead, let’s astonish the world by leading the way in the call for excellent 24/7 palliative care.”

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Mr McArthur however says polling and his public consultation on the bill show an “overwhelming majority” of Scots support assisted dying as it reduces “unnecessary suffering”.

He added he is convinced there needs to be a change in the law after hearing too many “harrowing” stories of people enduring bad deaths.

However, he believes better palliative care can co-exist alongside legalising assisted dying.

Mr McArthur told The Scotsman: “When assisted dying was introduced in the Australian state of Victoria, they put an extra $72 million into palliative care.

“Oregon, where assisted dying has been legal for more than 25 years, is considered to have amongst the best palliative care in the USA.

“As we move ahead in Scotland, my hope is that we see both a new, more compassionate law alongside greater investment in and expansion of palliative care.”

A spokeswoman for the Scottish Government said: “The government is committed to ensuring that everyone has dignity and respect at the end of their life and will carefully consider the substance of any bill that is introduced.

“We also remain committed to supporting the delivering of the very highest standards of care, right up to the end of life, and to developing and delivering a new strategy on palliative and end-of-life care.”



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