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Assisted dying inquiry hears people in UK face ‘unbearable suffering’

People dying in the UK face “uncontrollable” pain and “unbearable suffering”, which palliative care alone cannot fix, according to the first evidence to a major new parliamentary inquiry asking if assisted dying should finally be legalised.

In a shocking submission in favour of a law change, Molly Meacher told the Commons health and social care committee that the reality of end of life could include vomiting faeces, endless nausea and decaying tumours that smelled so bad they drove people out of hospital wards.

People “are existing, they’re not living”, the crossbench peer and chair of the charity Dignity in Dying told the committee inquiry, which comes eight years after the House of Commons last considered changing legislation in 2015.

Arguing strongly against any law change, Ilora Finlay, a crossbench peer and palliative care physician warned of the risk of “elder abuse” being worsened by a law change and said wider availability of palliative care, which remains patchy in the UK, must instead be a priority.

Charles Falconer, a Labour peer and former Lord Chancellor, described the current situation, where dying people sometimes withdraw their own treatment rather than taking drugs to end their life, as “a mess”. He proposed that assisted dying should be available only to terminally ill people and not those facing “unbearable suffering”, as others have suggested. A diagnosis would be needed from two doctors plus approval from high court judge.

“The bills that have been proposed [previously but defeated] say the person who decides to have an assisted death must have the capacity to make that decision,” he said.

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Source: The Guardian, 28 March 2023


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