Lancaster researchers propose new approach to assisted dying

Three Lancaster University professors have argued that it is time to move beyond a medicalised approach to assisted dying.

Despite growing legal and medical support for assisted dying, many healthcare professionals do not want to be directly involved.

Nancy Preston, Sheila Payne, and Suzanne Ost – three leading professors at Lancaster University – have written an opinion piece for the British Medical Journal, exploring whether an enhanced de-medicalised approach, involving organisations outside of healthcare, could help to overcome this.

The debate around assisted dying mainly focuses on whether it should be legalised, rather than how it should be implemented.

Decisions about legalisation will be made by politicians. If it is legalised, most people assume it will be part of healthcare.

Research from Lancaster professors challenges whether this is the best option, and their article in the BMJ discusses an alternative which could provide more support for patients and families seeking an assisted death, as well as removing the burden on decision making and involvement from NHS health care workers.

They argue that this option will also offer greater protection for vulnerable patients.

Nancy Preston, Professor of Supportive and Palliative Care at Lancaster University, said: “If the Government makes the decision to legalise assisted dying, it is crucial that equal consideration is given into how it should be implemented.

“The repercussions for patients, their families and healthcare workers could be profound if we don’t get this right.”

The opinion piece, entitled “Breaching the stalemate on assisted dying: it’s time to move beyond a medicalised approach”, is available to read here.