Assisted Suicide Not the Answer to Preventing Bad Deaths

By International Society For Advance Care Planning And End Of Life Care, PRNE
Tuesday, June 21, 2011

LONDON, June 22, 2011 -

Around the world too many patients have “bad deaths” because
they do not get the care they need, said the President of the
International Society for Advance Care Planning and End of Life
Care on the first day of the Society’s annual conference.

“Too often doctors and nurses fail to listen to the real
problems from the patients’ perspective and find solutions to help
patients live as well as possible,” said Associate Professor, Dr
Bill Silvester, an Australian intensive care specialist.

“Care of the dying must be a priority everywhere.”

The conference being held at the Queen Elizabeth 11 Centre has
attracted health professionals from around the world who specialise
in end of life health care.    

“We must not avoid having difficult conversations or worse,
ignoring them altogether. Too often patients are not getting what
they need and their distress is not being responded to rapidly
enough,” Dr Silvester said.

“If a patient’s suffering is being addressed and they are being
listened to and have some control over their future health care,
then they are much less likely to resort to assisted suicide or
request euthanasia.”

Dr Silvester has called on people to document their end of life
wishes, including wishes around organ donation, and to discuss
these with their family and doctor.  

“In a time of crisis, it helps everyone to know what a person
would have wanted, particularly if the patient cannot communicate,”
he said.  ”No one should be treated against their clear and
informed wish.”

“For those with early dementia it is particularly important that
we know what they want in their care when they deteriorate, so that
they have appropriate end of life care.” Dr Silvester said.

“The default setting for doctors is quite rightly, to preserve
life. But sometimes people want to be able to say ‘No’ to
aggressive interventions. Just because we have an increasing
medical armoury of high tech treatments at our disposal, doesn’t
always mean it’s in the patient’s best interest to deploy them.”

A landmark study by Dr Silvester and colleagues from the Austin
Hospital in Melbourne, which was published in the British Medical
Journal last year, found that involving  patient’s families in
advance care planning significantly reduces post traumatic stress
disorder, anxiety and depression in the surviving relatives of
people who have died.

The Director of the NHS National End of Life Care Programme,
Claire Henry, agreed more needs to be done to improve the way we

“Many people who have been asked about where they would want to
be cared for have expressed a preference to die at home, but many
of them don’t,” Ms Henry said.

“Advance care planning is central to this. This gives people,
and their families and carers, a chance to think and talk about
what they want; making informed choices about the kind of care they
want, where they want it and what kinds of treatment, if any, they
might refuse.”

“Health and social care professionals need to use their skills
and expertise to encourage people to talk about their wishes and
preferences at the end of life. This is supported by the end of
life care charter.”

Link to conference website:   href="">

Media inquiries:

Julie-Anne Davies


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