We recognise that dying is inevitable and is part of life. For those with terminal conditions, the dying process is not a failure of the healthcare team or the patient – but it does become a failure if the patient suffers an undignified death. Moreover since dying in these circumstances is not a failure, help in dying should be thought of as assisting dying and not assisting suicide.
Healthcare professionals can indirectly hasten death through the withdrawal/withholding of treatment or through the principle of ‘double effect’, but direct and deliberate assistance to die, at the patient’s request, is illegal. The law must change to provide safeguarded greater choice at the end of life, ensuring that within reason the wishes of terminally ill, mentally competent adults are respected.
Assisted dying should be just one of many options at the end of life. It should be available to complement other end-of-life care, as it does in other countries that have legalised and regulated assisted dying. Those wanting an assisted death should be supported by their healthcare professionals to die when and where they choose, within safeguards.