Tag Archives: end of life care

The will of the people, the “Right to Die.”

This is the last of a series of three posts about the right to die, end of life care and its legislation. The first post can be seen here and the second one can be seen here.

Since we all are going to die and see loved ones die, everyone has a vested interest in the country’s approach to death in the 21st century. Many believe that choosing the manner and timing of your own death is a fundamental human right. 80-90 per cent of the UK’s population believes assisted dying should be legalised for those suffering from terminal illnesses, and this is a view held equally strongly by those with “left wing” or “right wing” views.

The Liberal Democrats have long supported legislation on the “Right to Die”, but the gap between our elected politicians as a whole and the public is huge. The last attempt at legislation to legalise assistance for those who are terminally ill and likely to die within six months, was defeated in the House of Commons by 212 votes.

Some of the concerns MPs have are around vulnerable people. People who may feel under pressure to end their lives so as not to be a burden to family, caregivers or a society short of resources, or that people may not have been adequately supported and so may make an ill informed decision. But when peoples fears are addressed and adequate support put in place the request of someone to end their life may not be made again, and in most cases it is “possible to achieve a dignified and peaceful death.”

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An opportunity to reset end of life care

This is the second of a series of three posts about the right to die, end of life care and its legislation. The first post can be seen here.

Many rapid changes were made to prevent the NHS’s urgent services being swamped by Covid-19. Whilst we wait for population immunity- preferably through a successful vaccine – and hope there is no second wave, the NHS now has to adjust to the new normal. The NHS needs to start to deliver the routine care, the scans, the operations and cancer care that are now backlogged. This will require new ways of working and thinking or prolonged rationing of services will be a reality. There is now a real need and opportunity to reset how we manage Health and Social Care.

Now is the time to be thinking of end of life care, as even amidst the sad news of the thousands of care home deaths and the concerns raised about Covid-19 and Do Not Resuscitate orders, there was one silver lining – the importance of talking about death, advanced care planning and end of life care was brought sharply into focus.

UK end of life care, in parts, is exceptional. But many do not get the care they need, and live in fear. Services are patchy, disjointed, and not available all the time. This is unsurprising given that state funding of hospice care is woeful and that when any one part of a complex web of inter-related services struggles, patients and service users easily fall through the gaps. When Jeremy Hunt, posted his slightly sinister tweet “Every older person should die with dignity and respect…” he did have a point.

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Layla and Ed try to change laws on homelessness

I was so incredibly proud of two of our Lib Dem MPs yesterday.

First, Layla Moran stood up at PMQs and asked Theresa May to abolish the “archaic, dickensian and cruel” Vagrancy Act which criminalises rough sleeping, adding another layer of indignity to an already horrific situation for vulnerable people.

Here’s the exchange in full:

Under the Vagrancy Act 1824, rough sleeping is illegal. The Act was used nearly 2,000 times last year to drag homeless people before the courts. Scotland and Northern Ireland have already repealed it, so will the Prime Minister support my Bill to consign this heartless, Dickensian law to the history books across the whole United Kingdom?

The Prime Minister

We recognise that we need to take action in relation to rough sleeping, which is why we are putting more money into projects to reduce rough sleeping. That includes projects such as Housing First, which are being established in a number of places to ensure that we can provide for those who are rough sleeping. None of us wants to see anybody rough sleeping on our streets, which is why the Government are taking action.

This is even more important given that the cuts to social security have torn such massive holes in the safety net that homelessness is on the increase.

Layla also introduced a Bill to repeal the Vagrancy Act. Here she is talking about it.

And a couple of hours later, with a speech that packed a real punch, Ed Davey introduced a Bill which aims to give homeless people access to housing and end of life care if they are terminally ill. Yes, that’s right, they don’t actually have it already.

It is bad enough being homeless, but imagine having a terminal illness like Cancer. How on earth are you going to have a chance of managing the pain if you have nowhere to live? Anyone who has ever nursed someone through an illness like that will know how valuable that end of life care is at keeping people as comfortable as possible in their final weeks and days.

How would you like someone you love to end up in those circumstances?

Here’s Ed’s speech in full. It made me sad and angry to think that we live in a country where this isn’t already happening.

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