Social work and end-of-life care

Social work is important in end-of-life care

People need assistance with the dying process, not just assistance to die, celebrity and other personal experience and comment

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Debate about assisted dying has been raging over the summer, because of a Supreme Court judgement, Lord Falconer’s Bill based on a report he was involved in, was passing through the House of Lords (more on these later in the week). The newspapers therefore presented a good deal of commentary. Much of it was based on personal experience, which just emphasises how good and bad experiences of the dying process lingers on in forming people’s opinions about this important issue.

Looking at the articles that I’ve listed below, which cover a range of the personal expressions of view published and the views of the commentariat, they illustrate some of the worries hat lead people to seek assisted dying: the fear of pain, the fear of being a burden to one’s children and, on the other hand, the distress resulting from poor experience of the dying process that some older people go through.

There are both positive and negative experiences, but what a lot of this tells you is how important good care at the time of death is, including full discussion of options and opportunities to think though what is happening. It seems everyone needs assistance through the dying process, not just those who want their demise to be hastened.

Some personal experiences

Penny Pepper is a disabled woman talks about the potential of legalising assisted dying to devalue disabled people: article link

John Inge, Bishop of Worcester, discusses how he valued the last few weeks and days with his dying wife: article link

Max Pemberton, in an article from 2012, describes his grandmother’s death in which morphine to manage her pain was given – he talks about this as a nurse helping his ‘gran’ to die, but rightly says this is commonplace, because adequate pain relief may also perfectly legally have the ‘double effect’ of hastening an expected death: article link.

Jane Stephen, a Christian, describes the need to feel in control of what is happening to you: article link.

and of course the campaigning organisations also offer personal stories supporting their own position

Dignity in Dying: in favour of assisted dying: link to personal stories.

Care not Killing: against: link to voices against assisted dying:

 

Opinion pieces

Catherine Bennett argues that religious and other zealots have too much influence in forming opinion on the issue.

Andrew Brown argues that opposing assisted dying emphasises the individual’s interests rather than those of the family of society

Polly Toynbee has a well-established position, based partly on an unfortunate experience with the death of her mother, but she expresses a widely-held concern about being forced to die in pain

Other statements

An influential statement in favour came from Lord Carey a former Archbishop of Canterbury, influential first because many people with strong religious convictions are opposed to assisted dying, and also because he has changed his mind.

Other influential opinion came from Lord Lloyd Webber, the composer of musicals and theatrical impresario, Dominic Grieve, a former attorney-general, expressing the legal viewpoint, and Baroness Grey-Thompson, the disabled athlete, expressing the concerns that people with disability might be devalued.

A formal statement of the conventional religious view that life is a gift from God, not ours to take away, came from the newish Chief Rabbi, Ephraim Mirvis, important not only because of his position but because, rather unlike his predecessor, who was a bit of a priest around town, he is thought to be a considerable theologian.

Celebrities on assisted dying

Other celebrities taking a position included Alison Steadman, the actor, influenced by her experience of her mother’s death, and the veteran TV cook Mary Berry, who is now in the ‘mother’ position, and invited her children to ‘kill her off’ (as a Mail headline put it) if she ‘lost her marbles’ (another Mail article quoted her as saying this). The Press Association report in the Mail rather more appropriately says she ‘fears being a burden‘ although the Mail columnist Amanda Platell, used her experience of her mother’s experience of ageing to disagree.

 

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Written by Malcolm Payne

9 September 2014 at 9:59 pm

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