You are here

Palliative care key in reducing assisted suicide requests

25th January 2006

With both the US and the UK currently debating the various concerns associated with euthanasia, the issue of palliative care is being overlooked.

Following a number of high profile cases relating to assisted suicide, both countries have been focussing on reasons for and against the practice, with politicians and charities all expressing their views.

However, members of the medical profession believe that the debate needs to be shifted to the delivery of palliative care for terminally ill and dying patients.

They argue that ensuring people are comfortable and calm during their final weeks and days can reduce the number of assisted suicide requests, reports the Mercury News.

"Palliative care doesn't just mean treating someone's pain, nausea or shortness of breath," explained Dr Elizabeth Menkin.

"It also means dealing with a patient's fears and loss of a sense of belonging. Good palliative care addresses all these symptoms."

"If you treat someone's pain and depression, the requests for physician-assisted suicide go way down," added Dr Steven Pantilat

Although the calls have come primarily from the US, the issue is of just as much importance in the UK where standards of palliative care need to be made more consistent and easily accessible.