Select Committee on Assisted Dying for the Terminally Ill Bill Minutes of Evidence

Memorandum by Macmillan Cancer Relief

  1. Macmillan Cancer Relief is a national charity that works to provide people who have cancer, and their families, with expert nursing and medical care as well as emotional and practical support. Macmillan Cancer Relief has been closely concerned with the development, quality and monitoring of palliative care since the charity was established at the beginning of the last century.

  2.  Macmillan has taken the position that, given our present state of knowledge and the existing legal situation, we will not take a stance on assisted suicide. Our decision is influenced by a number of key principles which we believe should govern an end-of-life policies and services:

    —  Patients should be enabled to exercise choice and make personal decisions.

    —  To exercise choice, patients and families need access to information about options.

    —  Health and social care professionals need to be sensitive to patients' personal circumstances and beliefs.

    —  Healthcare professionals need to be supported and trained to openly discuss end of life issues with colleagues, patients and their families.

    —  There should be access to supportive and palliative care for all to enable people to die in the place of their choice, including their home, if they so wish.

    —  There is a need for research into patient and carer views at end of life.

  3.  Macmillan Cancer Relief believes that greater access to high quality supportive and palliative care is vital for cancer patients. We believe that everything possible should be done to alleviate a patient's pain and distress by managing their symptoms and also by providing appropriate psychological and emotional support to patients. However, we recognise that a small number of people who are terminally ill have symptoms which cannot be relieved by palliative measures.

  4.  Macmillan believes that the debate around end of life issues has been dominated by the medical and legal professions and the media, but that the views and wishes of patients and carers have been absent. More robust research needs to be undertaken to understand these views.

3 September 2004

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