Doctors call out “misleading” and “wildly inaccurate” assisted suicide activist video

Senior leaders at a national charity for end of life care have criticised a recent video from an assisted suicide lobby group labelling it “irresponsible”, “misleading” and “wildly inaccurate”.

Dignity in Dying released its video, The Inescapable Truth, as part of its ongoing efforts to legalise assisted suicide in the UK.

The distressing video features a mother talking to her son about his grandfather’s death. She tells her son that his grandad “moved to a special place called a hospice”, intercut with flashbacks portraying his death as agonising and traumatic.

Carole Walford and Tracey Bleakley, Chief Clinical Officer and Chief Executive of Hospice UK respectively,  said the film was “misleading and irresponsible campaigning.”

In their open letter to Dignity in Dying they call for the “sensationalist and inaccurate video” to be taken down. 

They say that it “could scare people away from the support they so desperately need… care that alleviates suffering, listens, communicates, and through skilled evidence based interventions meets the personal, physical, emotional and spiritual needs.”

Dignity in Dying claim the video is “a realistic portrayal” of those experiencing end of life care, and have so far not taken down the video. In a new report, Dignity in Dying, formerly known as the Voluntary Euthanasia Society, claim 17 people in the UK die in such a manner every day.  

A claim that has been disputed by healthcare professionals who lined up on Twitter to criticise the film.

An NHS palliative care doctor said: “The very last thing the debate on assisted dying needs is deeply misleading and wildly inaccurate portrayals of dying in a hospice.”

An NHS project manager for cancer alliance said: 

“The inescapable truth? Whose truth? Are you so desperate for support that you are reduced to #fakenews? This is definitely not my experience of my parents’ deaths, one in a hospice & one in an acute hospital. This is the most terrible exploitation of peoples’ fears. Shameful.”

A palliative care nurse tweeted: “This is a low act! I’ve nursed many many people dying in hospitals and hospice settings. NEVER, have I witnessed such a distressing scene. You are sensationalising and stigmatising death!”

“This is not truth,” added GP Dr Andrew Green, who has been a GP for 40 years.

Parliamentary efforts to allow doctors to help patients kill themselves have been consistently rejected in recent years, including by 330 votes to 118 in 2015. 

Spokesperson for Right To Life UK, Catherine Robinson said:

“Leading doctors at Hospice UK and elsewhere are correct to call out Dignity in Dying for their misleading, irresponsible scaremongering. A recent study into end-of-life care ranked the UK as the best in the world, praising the quality and availability of services.”

“Our world class end-of-life care is becoming increasingly important for a society which values the lives of people with terminal or life-limiting conditions.”

“Legalising assisted suicide would inevitably lead to pressure on vulnerable people to choose the quicker, cheaper option of death over end of life care.”

(Image credit: Dignity in Dying video screen shot)

Extra £25 million for hospices to ease end-of-life care

Boris Johnson unveils an additional £25 million funding for hospices in a bid to ease end-of-life care 

The funding will come from existing NHS budgets and will alleviate some pressure on hospices which receive most of their financial support from the voluntary sector.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said: “Seeing a loved one nearing the end of their life is one of the hardest things a family will ever experience, so it’s vital that we support our fantastic and hardworking hospice staff to deliver the highest quality palliative care.

“As Prime Minister I am making sure that today our hospices and palliative care services are given a £25 million boost to alleviate the everyday pressures faced on the frontline, helping to ensure they have the resources they need, when they need them.”

Downing Street said the money would help to keep hospices open, “improve the quality of end of life care”, and ensure that people “die as comfortably as possible” – as well as easing workforce pressures.

This additional funding comes at the same time as hospices are under acute financial pressure with, for the first time, one of Britain’s hospices having to close its doors this year.

According to the Government, hospices support more than 200,000 people with terminal or life-limiting conditions every year, as well as help “tens of thousands” of family members needing bereavement support.

Spokesperson for Right To Life UK, Catherine Robinson said:

“This extra £25 million is extremely welcome not only for people needing hospice care and their families, but also for a society which values the lives of people with terminal or life-limiting conditions.”

“In Oregon, which has had assisted suicide since 1997, over 25% of all those who end their own lives through medically assisted suicide, list “inadequate pain control” as one of their end of life concerns. Almost 45% of people list “burden on family, friends/caregivers” as a concern.”

“Both of these problems can be greatly alleviated by effective and compassionate hospice care. If we want Britain to remain a country free from assisted suicide and euthanasia, one of the most effective things that can be done is to ensure a strong hospice system and excellent end of life care.”

Tetraplegic model speaks out against euthanasia after once planning to end her life

A deadly double standard – Claire’s Story #DefendNZ Documentary 2 (Youtube: screenshot)

As The End of Life Choice Bill is currently being debated in New Zealand, a woman, Claire Freeman, involved in a car accident causing her to become tetraplegic, has spoken out forcefully against the Bill.

The Bill permits assisted suicide in cases where an adult has a “terminal illness that is likely to end the person’s life within 6 months”; or suffers from “a grievous and irremediable medical condition; and is in an advanced state of irreversible decline in capability; and experiences unbearable suffering that cannot be relieved in a manner that he or she the person considers tolerable”.

Claire argues that this Bill would have been dangerous for people like her given her (former) “mindset and lack of proper support” and had this Bill passed only a few years ago, she would have been eligible to end her life.

Although formerly pro-assisted suicide, her experience as a tetraplegic has led her to change her mind admitting that “[she] didn’t really understand the implications of having a ‘choice’ [for assisted suicide].”

Claire attempted suicide more than once and her health professionals “encouraged [her] to explore assisted suicide”. She had intended to travel to Switzerland to kill herself but was unable to do so due to a disastrous operation on her neck, which made her condition even worse.

During her recuperation in hospital “[she] realised that being offered assisted suicide instead of suicide support was disturbing.”

“I had been told ‘if I was in your position, with your disability, I wouldn’t want to live’ by the very health professionals who are there to help suicide survivors. No one ever asked about my toxic mindset and frantic way of living.”

“I realised my biggest problem had been my mindset and a lack of proper support”

Claire said that people like her are not being given a voice in this debate in New Zealand.

“I don’t want to see a vulnerable person talking to a health professional who assumes their life is of little value due to their disability or illness.”

“The reality is this: If the End of Life Choice Bill, in its current form, were law four years ago, I’d be dead. This isn’t about religion or politics; it’s about trying to do the right thing and highlight the dangers of this bill.”

Clare McCarthy of Right To Life UK commented:

“The attitude of medical professionals towards people with disabilities in this case is, sadly,  all too familiar. Just recently in the UK, a mother was offered an abortion 10 times because her daughter was diagnosed as having a disability in the womb.”

“These professionals acted in a remarkably unprofessional manner by encouraging Claire to kill herself, and, as she rightly notes, she would not be alive today had the law been different. We can see clearly that the attitudes of the medical professionals and the lack of proper support were a key motivating factor behind Claire’s original decision to take her life, which, fortunately, she was unable to enact.”

“As her experience shows, laws prohibiting assisted suicide and euthanasia protect people like Claire, and they should not be removed.”

The ethical nightmare we won’t confront

Nothing pleases some people more than when others get something wrong. The Germans even have a word for it.

Naomi Wolf was on the receiving end of it recently. It emerged, in the course of a live broadcast, that she had made a serious mistake in interpreting some of the evidence which she had marshalled to defend the argument of her new book. And gosh how people enjoyed it.

Click here to read the full article