The world’s largest body representing palliative care doctors has shared how its members believe media bias is motivating individuals to support the removal of end-of-life protections.
The Association for Palliative Medicine’s (APM) survey found that nearly nine in ten respondents (87 per cent) felt there had not been enough press coverage on “good deaths”.
Currently, Baroness Meacher’s assisted suicide Bill is in the House of Lords, while in Scotland Liam McArthur MSP is pressing ahead with his plan to legalise assisted suicide.
The study also found that two thirds of doctors (67 per cent) believed covert euthanasia was already occurring in the UK, due to misconceptions over palliative care.
One doctor said: “I wish there would be a lot more publicity and promotion about all positive experiences of death and dying that occur across the country”, adding that negative stories often “overshadow all the good work that’s carried out by palliative care teams”.
a small section of the media has painted a grossly misleading picture of palliative care in this country
Another said there had been a “huge bias” in media reports on the issue, while a third suggested that current campaigns to see the practices introduced were “generating fear”.
‘Scaring vulnerable patients’
In all, 274 doctors responded to the APM survey conducted at the end of last year.
Responding to its findings, APM President Dr Amy Proffitt said it was clear its members “are deeply concerned at the way a small section of the media has painted a grossly misleading picture of palliative care in this country”.
She added that: “Stories about good deaths, available treatments and how to access end-of-life care are largely sacrificed in favour of those that focus on negative outcomes, which unfortunately are scaring vulnerable patients.”
The APM study concluded: “The legalisation of assisted suicide could be undermined significantly if patients were not being frightened by hard cases in the media, and instead understood that, in the majority of cases, good palliative care can facilitate a good death.”
In 2015, a Bill to remove existing safeguards in England and Wales was soundly defeated in the House of Commons by 330 votes to 118.
And in Scotland, two assisted suicide Bills have been defeated since 2010, most recently in 2015, when MSPs rejected Patrick Harvie’s Assisted Suicide (Scotland) Bill by 82 votes to 36.