MSP plans better care for the dying

An MSP is trying to persuade the Scottish Executive to make sure patients suffering from terminal illnesses are provided with better end-of-life care.

Government plans to improve care provision were announced earlier this year, but a new Bill from Perth MSP Roseanna Cunningham could make this a legal requirement.

It could see 30,000 patients in Scotland receiving better palliative care – treatment which alleviates symptoms but does not cure the condition itself.

If the Bill is passed, patients will have greater choice over where they spend their last days – for example staying at home with family rather than being in hospital.

Marie Fallon, a professor of palliative medicine at Edinburgh University, endorsed the plans.

She said: “With palliative care, we are essentially looking to provide the conditions for that which could be termed a ‘good death’.

“That term may seem an odd one to many of us but if you know that death is coming then it is a very important concept.

“It is essentially about being treated as an individual, with dignity and respect; being without pain and other symptoms; being in familiar surroundings or surroundings of choice.”

Jeremy Purvis, an MSP whose previous attempts to make assisted suicide legal failed, says the Bill ought to include the ‘right to die’ as well as the right to receive proper end-of-life care.

But assisted suicide is widely opposed among palliative care experts, who say it would divert attention away from alleviating suffering and would kill patient trust.

One leading expert in palliative care, Dr David Jeffrey, warned last month: “Some of those who have been prominent in campaigns to change the law have been articulate and able to express themselves confidently.

“My concern is with people who are frightened, possibly depressed and bit confused.

“These are people who don’t know where to turn and who feel they are a burden. The law has to protect them.”

Independent MSP Margo MacDonald recently announced her intention to introduce another assisted dying Bill.

But Scottish health minister Nicola Sturgeon indicated earlier this month that she was “not persuaded” by arguments for legalised assisted suicide.

Related Resources