Patients can mistakenly believe assisted dying is available in the UK, causing additional mental suffering, warns former nurse.

A former nurse has opened up about how cruel it feels to refuse patients, who do not want to endure weeks of suffering, the option of a legal assisted death. 

In 2009, the Royal College of Nursing voted to adopt a neutral stance on assisted dying reform, and called for a public inquiry to help those who were confused about the law

But now, Pauline Carroll, an ex-district nurse, has said that patients can still be unaware that assisted dying is illegal in England and Wales, and that it made her feel ‘more like a bully than a nurse when patients with difficult symptom control requested assisted deaths … [since she] believe[s] it is cruel to force these patients to suffer a protracted death against their wishes’. 

Speaking about her experience of caring for a man suffering from Motor Neurone Disease, who had mistakenly thought an assisted death would be possible, she said knowing the option of an assisted death existed, with appropriate safeguards, would give many people in her patient’s position peace of mind. She added ‘It is incredibly important to respect a patient’s autonomous decision in end-of-life care and the general medical profession is coming round to this view’. 

Her comments follow a submission from My Death, My Decision to the Welsh Parliament that assisted dying and palliative care should be seen as two options on a spectrum of end-of-life care to improve overall choice at the end of life; and a longstanding campaign for the Ministry of Justice to issue an inquiry into the ban against assisted dying. 

Chair of My Death, My Decision Trevor Moore said: 

‘The archaic law on assisted dying in the UK serves only to add to the anguish of those already coping with difficult end of life decisions. Those enduring intolerable and incurable suffering can gain considerable comfort in the knowledge that a dignified death is available, as other more enlightened countries have shown.. Why does the UK continue to deny people the ability to decide how, where, and when they want to die – a right that exists for tens of millions of people in many jurisdictions around the world?  The time for the Government to launch an inquiry into legal, safe, and compassionate assisted dying is long overdue. 

Adults of sound mind, who are either incurably suffering or terminally ill, should have the option of a safeguarded assisted death.’