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Assisted dying and medical practice: questions and considerations for healthcare organisations
  1. Ana Worthington1,
  2. Ilora Finlay2 and
  3. Claud Regnard3
  1. 1Department of Theology and Religion, University of Oxford, Oxford, UK
  2. 2Professor of Palliative Medicine, Cardiff University School of Medicine, Cardiff, UK
  3. 3Honorary Consultant of Palliative Medicine, St. Oswald’s Hospice, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, UK
  1. Correspondence to Ana Worthington, University of Oxford, Oxford OX2 6GG, UK; ana.worthington{at}keble.ox.ac.uk

Abstract

Objectives Most clinical teams and organisations have not openly or formally discussed how they would react if physician-assisted suicide were to be legalised. This paper aims to discuss some of the potential challenges of introducing ‘assisted dying’ into medical care and produces a table of questions and considerations in light of such evidence so as to promote necessary discussion.

Methods An analysis of recent quantitative and qualitative studies from jurisdictions where ‘assisted dying’ is practised was conducted, with particular attention paid to studies which focus on the impact of legalising ‘assisted dying’ on clinical care.

Results ‘Assisted dying’ can have a significant impact on clinical practice by complicating patient care and increasing clinician workload, potentially causing stress on patient care.

Conclusions If physician-assisted suicide was to be legalised as part of existing healthcare, there are many questions that healthcare organisations must consider. Such considerations are tabulated in order to encourage awareness and discussion on the topic.

  • Ethics
  • End of life care

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Footnotes

  • Contributors The conception for the article was a collective effort based on joint discussion. AW wrote the first draft and IF and CR contributed comments and suggestions on subsequent drafts.

  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests IF is on the board of Living and Dying Well, a think tank that researches and analyses evidence surrounding the ‘assisted dying’ debate. AW declares paid employment with Living and Dying Well for whom she works as a temporary researcher.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; internally peer reviewed.

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