Friday, 29 May 2009

You are precious in my eyes and I love you!

By Revd Ian Galloway, Convener of Church of Scotland’s Church and Society Council has written a passionate defense of the Christian approach to end-of-life issues.

"You are precious in my eyes and I love you”. This could be the refrain of a popular love song, but it is not; it comes from the Hebrew Scriptures (Isaiah 43:4) and is one of the foundations to understanding a Christian approach to end-of-life issues. How can honour and love be at the heart of the euthanasia debate? A Christian understanding of the value of human life derives from the belief that we are made in the image of God and that God loves, honours and respects us. There is something of the sacred within each one of us. This perspective on the value of human life has particular consequences in our ageing population where there are inevitably scarce resources available to take care of the aged, the frail and the infirm. Medical advances, life-supporting technology and pharmacological solutions have increased life expectancy and the expectation of cure to the point that illness and death are perhaps less accepted as part of normal human experience.

The full article is printed in the Interfaith Matters newspaper which is the organ of the Edinburgh Interfaith Association, EIFA. The full newspaper can be downloaded here.
Reverend Galloway's article was "in print" about the same time that Margo MacDonald MSP put forward a Proposed End of Life Choices Bill to the Scottish Parliament. Since then the end of life debate has grown across the country.

On the other hand a different approach to dealing with difficult end of life issues has been proposed by Roseanna Cunningham. She presented a Proposed Palliative Care (Scotland) Bill
The Proposed Palliative Care Bill and the Proposed End of Life Choices (Scotland)Bill and can both be viewed and downloaded at the Scottish Parliament's website.
If you have any comments on the article or on any aspects of these issues please express your comments right here on the blog.


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Thursday, 7 May 2009

Assisted Suicide

Assisted suicide is seen with justification, as the first step towards euthanasia. It is suggested by the supporters of euthanasia that both doctors and carers are regularly dealing with the intractable symptoms of seriously or terminally ill patients in this way, making available the means of self-destruction, but allowing the person concerned to take the definitive action which is required to end life. They call for an end to the 'hypocrisy' of this approach.

However, it is striking that in many instances of distressing and painful illness, a supply of medication which would be entirely sufficient to end life is left in the full control of the patietn with instructions for safe self-medication and in only a few cases is this trust manifestly abused. Nor is it often abused when suich instructions are given to the principal carer. It is doubtful whether the legal sanction by itself is enough to totally inhibit such action, but legalisation of physician assisted suicide would carry the same problems as the legalisation of euthanasia of any nature - it would loosen the ethical basis of much medical practice.

Legalisation of a defence of assisted suicide by relatives, carers or anyone else would be even more unsafe and would expose the caring situation to even greater pressures of a very serious nature.

Suicide and assisted suicide are neither a safe nor a satisfactory answer to the relief of a distressing illness. Thise who do promote such legislation make much of the anomaly that, while suicide has been decriminalised, assisting suicide remains a criminal act. While it may be possible to interpret the intent of the suicide - him or herself - in the light of illness or psychological disturbance, such extenuating arguments cannot be applied to tjhe person who assists. The motivation of compassion may be claimed, but many other factors mat also be playing a part, and the safeguards of the law remain appropriate.

Over the years the medical and nursing professions have steadfastly set their faces against such a change in the law, and with a few vociferous exceptions, doctors and nurses feel that they neither need it nor want it.

CreditsPhotograph by Anthea


Monday, 4 May 2009

Conference on Patient's rights and Public Involvement in Healthcare delivery.

A conference exploring the challenges and opportunities of strengthening patient rights and public involvement in healthcare delivery will take place on Tuesday 26 May 2009, at the MacDonald Holyrood Hotel, in Edinburgh

Featured speakers include:

Margo MacDonald MSP, Author of the Proposed End of Life Choices (Scotland) Bill; Professor Kenneth Boyd, Professor of Medical Ethics and Director of Clinical Skills, Personal and Professional Development, College of Medicine and Veterinary Medicine, University of Edinburgh. Cathy Jamieson MSP, Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Health and Wellbeing; Professor John Smyth, Assistant Principal, Cancer Research Development, University of Edinburgh.

The Scottish Government's vision for a ‘mutual NHS' outlined in the Better Health, Better Care Action Plan is beginning to take shape. The shift from viewing patients as ‘service users' to ‘active partners' will have a profound effect on NHS policy and practice. There are significant concerns that statutory patient entitlements will create a culture of litigation and that legally enforceable healthcare standards will have huge implications for service providers. How will the implementation of such legislation be monitored, what form of sanctions will apply should it be breached and will this lead to resources being diverted from direct patient care? Health professionals are confronted with an increasingly diverse range of ethical dilemmas throughout their careers. An increased emphasis on patient rights and public involvement in the NHS is likely to ensure such dilemmas become more common than ever and that ethical judgments - often made under the extreme pressures of limited time and resources - may become increasingly subject to legal review.

This conference will review the Government's proposals for developing a ‘mutual NHS'. It will explore the proposals outlined in the Patients' Rights Bill and the potential implications for service providers and will encourage discussions on a range of medico-moral dilemmas which test the boundaries of patient rights and involvement in healthcare delivery. If you have any queries regarding the conference or would like find out more information, please email