Assisted dying debate: ‘There’s no need for death on demand, we need better care for the terminally ill,’ says hospice boss

Dr Ros Taylor
Dr Ros Taylor

The director of Berkhamsted’s The Hospice of St Francis has spoken out against proposals for an assisted dying law that are being debated in the House of Lords today.

Writing in her blog, Ros Taylor says that the ‘untold stories’ behind the public debate come from people who work with the dying every day.

She says that hospice care workers see ‘outlooks swing from despair to joy on a daily basis’ and that research shows that depression in the terminally ill is treatable.

She gives the example of a man who was lonely, had cancer and earlier this year tried to end his life. But after coming to the hospice and seeing psychiatrists, his mood lifted.

He wrote poetry, laughed again and died peacefully with his family at his bedside three months later.

In her blog, Dr Taylor questions which of us make decisions that aren’t influenced by others – or don’t have an impact on others.

She says: “We are good at influencing people in their decisions, particularly when they are in pain or sad.

“If assisted suicide is legalised, this influencing will include an option to die, which many might consider that it is their duty to take.”

Dr Taylor argues that the government should be putting more money into improving life for people who are dying by investing in palliative care, rather than hastening their death.

She says: “To introduce ‘death on demand’ as an option seems to be a tragic and unnecessary development.

“The UK is the now the only European country where palliative care and hospice care is predominantly funded by charity, by our community, not by government.”

Dr Taylor says that it is a strange idea that we can ever know that non-existence is better than existence.

Writing about the hospice, she says: “We do see sadness and grief at leaving life but most of all we see people striving to live another day.”

You can read her full blog entry here