Nurses divided over failure of assisted dying bill

MPs' assisted dying vote gets a mixed reception from nurses

Nurses have given a mixed response to a vote by MPs to reject a bill that would have legalised assisted dying.

The bill proposed that people with less than six months to live, if granted approval by two doctors and a high court judge, could have been prescribed a lethal dose of drugs. MPs rejected the bill last week by 330 votes to 118.

Professor Dame Jill Macleod Clarke, a University of Southampton professor of nursing and member of the health professionals for assisted dying steering group, said: ‘MPs have ignored the will of the public. A significant number of dying people will continue to suffer at the end of their lives, despite receiving high quality palliative care. Others will be forced to take matters into their own hands, either by travelling to Dignitas to die, if they can afford it, or by ending their own lives behind closed doors.’

Gay Lee, a palliative care nurse, said: ‘I’m disappointed. Assisted dying should be one aspect of palliative care. It’s not right to describe it as a slippery slope – it’s about giving people a choice about when they die.’

However, Jo Fernandes, a practice development nurse at the Hospice of St Francis in Berkhamsted, Hertfordshire backs the MPs’ move. She said: ‘Most people do not die enduring unbearable suffering, but of gradual organ failure. What motivates us in the profession is to care for people and, crucially, do no harm.’

The RCN has taken a neutral stance on assisted dying. A members’ survey in 2009 found 49% supported the idea, while 40% opposed it.


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