The debate about legalising Medical Aid in Dying (MAID) in Britain is not going to stop. Whatever form legislation eventually takes, medics will be the professionals most involved in enabling patients to have more control over the manner and timing of their deaths. Yet proponents of MAID with a faced a choice. They could either campaign for a right to die for those suffering from a terminal illness alone, or campaign for a more inclusive “right to die” which enables those who are facing or suffering medical conditions that are intractable and intolerable to have a dignified and peaceful death at a time and place of their choice.
We believe that assisted dying should not be restricted only to those with a terminal illness. We recognise, from clinical experience, that many progressive neurological conditions, such as Dementia and Parkinsonism, can have effects upon patients which are as bad as terminal illnesses or worse. Our members believe that people facing such illnesses, who consider their quality of life intolerable should not have their suffering unnecessarily prolonged. We support the rights and dignity of people such as Dianne Pretty, Debbie Purdy, Tony Nicklinson and Omid T, as well as Noel Conway.
We believe medical aid in dying is an extension of medical aid in living. It is important maintain continuity of care and everyone involved in this debate must also work together to devise acceptable safeguards. MD.MG aims to provide the specifically medical and nursing input that this wider debate needs. That includes encouraging patients to contemplate both death and dementia, plan for them well in advance, and register detailed Advance Decisions.
Frequently asked questions:
MD.MG campaigns to equip doctors to discuss dying, remove legal and professional inhibitions (the gag rule) on discussing MAID abroad, and change the law to permit MAID in the UK.
Equip Medics to Discuss Dying:
Dying is an uncomfortable topic for anyone, but too many medics feel poorly equipped to discuss it with their patients . MD.MG campaigns to challenge the negative clinical stereotypes about dying and the perception that dying is a failure of care. We believe it is important to equip our doctors for the challenges of everyday practice and are campaigning for future training to include a focus upon dying and the skills necessary to start conversations early.
End The “Gag Rule”
Medics shouldn’t be scared that they will break the law, or face disciplinary proceedings, if their patients ask for information about dying abroad. Pending a change in the law we believe that the current guidance on patients seeking information or advice about assistance to die, should at least change to permit doctors to discuss (though not to raise, encourage, or assist) the option of travelling abroad for medical aid in dying. We also believe that the guidance on a doctor’s involvement in encouraging or assisting suicide, should clarify that a doctor will not be disciplined for providing medical records or reports to a patient seeking medical aid in dying in another country.
Change The Law On Assisted Dying
The current law against assisted dying is unconscionable and cruel. Although we firmly support the provision of high quality palliative care, it is not appropriate for everyone and we believe every patient deserves the fullest possible range of options, as is increasingly the case in other countries. We believe it is the responsibility of doctors to respect patient autonomy and with appropriate safeguards not prolong unnecessary suffering.
As with earlier debates about contraception and abortion, there are strong feelings on both sides of the assisted dying debate. However, the British Medical Journal has reported that 55% of UK doctors agreed or strongly agreed that the law should change. A survey by Medix also found that 45% of UK doctors believe that some healthcare professionals already assist with the death of patients. We believe that the law should neither require nor forbid doctors to perform life-ending procedures or write life-ending prescriptions.
Membership of MD.MG is free and open to any practicing, registered, or retired UK doctor or nurse. We are also open to medical students training at a university level and will consider applications from any professional with relevant experience.