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Palliative care doctors warn British public is being ‘scared’ into supporting assisted suicide

The Association of Palliative Medicine (APM) has warned that the public is being “scared” into supporting assisted suicide by an excessive focus in the media on cases of suffering at end-of-life, while coverage of well-delivered palliative care is ignored.

A survey of almost 300 APM members showed that a large majority of doctors working in palliative care believe there is not enough coverage of “good deaths” in the media and that there “is a high degree of patient and family misconception of palliative care, which may be exacerbated by public discussion of assisted suicide/euthanasia”.

A survey, published last week by the Association of Palliative Medicine (APM), reveals that 87% “felt there has not been enough press coverage of good deaths”. One respondent said:

“There has been huge bias in reporting misery of deaths and less on good palliative care and good deaths”.

Another said: “I wish there would be a lot more publicity and promotion about all the positive experiences of death and dying that occur across the country… most of the time the bad ones hit the news and overshadow all the good work that’s carried out by Palliative care teams”.

Stories about negative outcomes are “scaring vulnerable patients”

Chairperson of the APM, Dr Amy Proffitt, said doctors who provide palliative care are “deeply concerned” at how “grossly misleading” some of the reports are about the quality of end-of-life care in England.

“Stories about good deaths, available treatments and how to access end-of-life care are largely sacrificed in favour of those that focus on negative outcomes, which unfortunately are scaring vulnerable patients”, she said.

“This is then compounded by failing to ask why these issues occurred. For example, was the patient able to access all the services they needed? For any clinician, this is the obvious first question, because we know that around one in four people who would benefit from palliative care do not receive it”.

Patient and family confusion about palliative care

The survey also revealed that palliative care doctors believe there is a high degree of patient and family misconception about end-of-life care. 67% of respondents said that “patients and families think they are definitely or probably practicing covert euthanasia”.

One respondent said: “Some patients confuse palliative care with euthanasia, especially when it comes to the use of injectable opioids”.

Another doctor said: “Palliative care is already equivalent to euthanasia in the [public’s] mind here – they associate syringe pumps with euthanasia and this is a myth we have to [dispel] on a daily basis when interacting with patients and their families in the hospital”.

The survey also found that while 60% of doctors in palliative care are able to have open discussions about assisted suicide and euthanasia in their clinical teams, some 10% said that “the organisation where they deliver most of their care currently does or would actively inhibit them from expressing their views on assisted suicide”.

Palliative care doctors oppose assisted suicide

A 2020 British Medical Association (BMA) survey showed that 84% of doctors in palliative medicine would not be willing to perform euthanasia on a patient should the law ever change.

The APM survey came out at the same time as an amendment to the Government’s Health and Care Bill that sought to force the Government into drafting anassisted suicide bill within a year of the Health and Care Bill becoming law.

On Wednesday evening, Lord Forsyth’s assisted suicide amendment was not taken to a vote, but it is possible that the amendment will be debated again at Report Stage of the Bill.

Right To Life UK spokesperson, Catherine Robinson, said: “The presentation of this debate in the media is especially important as it is so easy for the public to get the wrong idea about what palliative care actually involves. The point is not to end the life of the patient, as in assisted suicide and euthanasia, but to manage their symptoms to the greatest degree possible and to ensure the patient has as positive and dignified experience of death and dying as possible”.

“Equally, an excessive focus on bad deaths and suffering at the end of life can lead to the perception that there is no hope and create the false choice between a painful, drawn-out and unnecessarily unpleasant death and an assisted suicide or euthanasia. But this is not the case at all. Good palliative care is, or should be, an option for all of us at the end of our lives”.

Dear reader,

Thanks to your support, earlier this year the abortion lobby failed to pass two extreme abortion up to birth amendments tabled by Labour MPs Stella Creasy and Diana Johnson.

Unfortunately, this is not the end for our opposition. 

In the new Parliament, we will be facing major threats on not just one but three fronts: assisted suicide; experimentation on human embryos; and abortion up to birth:

  1. The first threat is from the assisted suicide lobby. The new Prime Minister, Sir Keir Starmer, has not only voted in favour of making assisted suicide legal in the past but also pledged ahead of the election that he would make time for MPs to vote on the introduction of assisted suicide. Now that he has been elected, we will be facing a big battle to stop assisted suicide from being legalised. To attempt to secure this law change, the assisted suicide lobby, led by the multi-million-pound outfit, Dignity in Dying, is expected to significantly ramp up their campaigning to put pressure on MPs to vote in support of introducing assisted suicide.
  2. The second threat is from the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) and their allies in biotech firms that undertake experimentation on the most vulnerable, precious and unique tiny babies - human embryos. These groups are running a major campaign to remove the 14-day limit from current legislation, so that scientists will be able to experiment on human embryos / unborn babies up to when they are 28 days or four weeks gestation. At around 22 days, the central nervous system begins to form and by 28 days, the heart has begun to beat, the brain has begun to develop and a baby’s eyes, ears and nose have started to emerge.
  3. The third threat is from the abortion lobby. Earlier this year the abortion lobby failed to pass two extreme abortion up to birth amendments that Labour MPs Stella Creasy and Diana Johnson tabled. The abortion lobby, led by BPAS and MSI Reproductive Choices (formerly Marie Stopes International), has made it clear that they will be working with pro-abortion MPs to try and force through major changes to our abortion laws that would allow abortion up to birth. A law change that allows abortion up to birth was passed in New Zealand in 2020 by the then Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern’s Government, and that country saw a 43% increase in late-term abortions in the same year. 

If these three major threats from our opposition are successful, thousands of lives will be lost.

This year we successfully ran our biggest campaign in 26 years to fight the abortion lobby’s abortion up to birth amendments. This has used a considerable amount of Right To Life UK's limited resources since our last appeal for donations from supporters last year.

To cover this gap and ensure we effectively defeat these proposals during the coming months, we are aiming to raise at least £100,000 by midnight on Sunday 14 July.

We are, therefore, appealing to you to please give as generously as you can. Every single donation, no matter how small, will go towards saving the lives of the unborn and many others.

By stopping these threats, YOU can save lives over this coming period.

Will you make a donation now to help protect vulnerable lives from these threats?