Lancaster University palliative care expert advises Parliament on assisted dying and assisted suicide

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Lancaster professor Nancy Preston has given evidence before a parliamentary inquiry into assisted dying and assisted suicide.

The inquiry by the Health and Social Care Select Committee took place in a Committee Room in the Houses of Parliament.

Nancy Preston is a professor of supportive and palliative care at Lancaster University, where she is a co-director at the International Observatory on End of Life Care.

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She was asked to give evidence based upon her extensive research exploring the impact upon families and health care professionals in the first of three parliamentary panels.

Prof Nancy Preston pictured during the inquiry.Prof Nancy Preston pictured during the inquiry.
Prof Nancy Preston pictured during the inquiry.

Prof Preston said: “It’s really important that academics are able to share their research with parliamentarians. I really wanted to get over the broader reach of assisted dying and ensure that families and healthcare workers were considered.

“Research evidence suggests the majority of the public would like to see a change in the law so it is important that a wide range of evidence and views are considered by parliamentarians.”

The inquiry explored arguments across the debate with a focus on the healthcare aspects of assisted dying/assisted suicide. It considered the role of medical professionals, access to palliative care, what protections would be needed to safeguard against coercion and the criteria for eligibility to access assisted dying/assisted suicide services.

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Health and Social Care Committee chair Steve Brine MP said: “The debate on assisted dying and assisted suicide understandably arouses passionate views with many different and equally valid perspectives. It’s an issue that has vexed parliamentarians who have sought a way through the many ethical, moral, practical and humane considerations involved.

“What has changed in recent years is that there is now real-world evidence to look at. Some form of assisted dying or assisted suicide is legal in at least 27 jurisdictions worldwide. It became legal in Canada in 2015; the Netherlands in 2001; Oregon in the United States in 1994.

"So it is time to review the actual impact of changes in the law in other countries in order to inform the debate in our own.

“Our inquiry will examine that evidence, hearing from all sides of the debate. The government has stated it is for parliament to decide on the issue so our purpose is to inform parliament in any debate.”

“I will be approaching this inquiry with compassion and an open mind as I know will my select committee colleagues. We want to hear from campaigners, members of the medical profession and members of the public and we will look at the moral, ethical and practical concerns raised in a way that is informed by actual evidence.”

MPs will make their recommendations to government on next steps in a report following the inquiry.