Intended for healthcare professionals


Why the Assisted Dying Bill should become law in England and Wales

BMJ 2014; 349 doi: (Published 02 July 2014) Cite this as: BMJ 2014;349:g4349

Assisted Dying could contribute to better deaths in England and Wales

We’re no longer in an era where ‘doctor knows best’. I therefore strongly support the call here for Parliament to rise to the challenge and follow the lead of the public – who are overwhelmingly in favour of assisted dying. Of course, strong safeguards are necessary – stronger and safer than the government currently applies to the tobacco and food industries.

But I hope that the Assisted Dying Bill will also promote discussion around death and so weaken current taboos against talking about and planning for a good death. In his recent Guardian interview, John Ashton spoke movingly about 'midwives' for death. His wide-ranging comments also touched on sex education. Death is just as universal as sex – but there is very little education for it at any age, despite only getting one chance to get it right. Why can’t there be ‘death education’ – as an opportunity to think about what we might want to happen? It might even promote another of Dr Ashton’s ideas: the four-day week. After all, no-one on their deathbed regrets not spending enough time in the office!

Assisted dying is, of course, not for everyone – either as a patient or a doctor. But I regret that, despite his exemplary hospice care, my father had to wait to die from his metastatic cancer after he had made it clear that he wanted to be dead. I have MS and while I am well now, I also fear that, without a change in the law, I may be driven to organising my own death before I really want this, in a foreign country.
Let’s hope that Parliament makes a better and more democratic job of it than the RCGP did.

Competing interests: I might wish to be assisted in my own dying. I am also a member of Healthcare Professionals for Assisted Dying

04 July 2014
Caroline Mawer
Tower Hamlets, London