Palliative care review started as MSPs block assisted suicide

MSPs have launched an inquiry into end-of-life care provision in Scotland, after the issue was highlighted during debates on legalising assisted suicide.

In May, a Bill to allow people as young as 16 to get help to kill themselves was rejected at Holyrood by 82 votes to 36.

But concerns about the availability and quality of palliative care were raised, prompting the Scottish Parliament’s Health Committee to look into the issue.

Patients’ needs

Committee head Duncan McNeil MSP and his deputy Bob Doris MSP launched the inquiry at a Marie Curie hospice in Glasgow.

Duncan McNeil said: “When faced with a terminal condition, it’s clear that the priority must be to put patients’ needs at the heart of their treatment and care.

“We want this inquiry to shine a light on access to palliative care in Scotland and what more can be done to improve care for people at the end of their lives.”


Bob Doris said: “We’ve already heard that the earlier the conversation takes place on palliative care, the more likely it is the patient will receive care which reflects their needs and priorities.

“As a committee we want to use this inquiry to hear directly from patients and their families as well as those working in health and care sectors about their experiences of palliative and end-of-life care, and how they think the system can be improved.”

During the consideration of the Bill to legalise assisted suicide in Scotland, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon expressed opposition to changing the law and support for palliative care.

Compound distress

And a group of senior palliative care doctors raised concerns that legalising assisted suicide “would expose our patients to internal or external pressures to consider that option, creating a dilemma which would compound their distress and prejudice their treatment and its outcome”.

Instead they called for even greater improvements to be made to Scotland’s “world-leading” palliative care.

At Westminster, Labour MP Rob Marris is set to introduce an assisted suicide Bill in the coming weeks. MPs will vote on the issue on 11 September.

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