Friday, September 14, 2007

Voluntary Euthanasia

The Green Party has come out in support of a sensible framework for voluntary euthanasia. We have been working on this policy for a long time and it is great to see it enter as party policy.

There is increasing discussion on end of life care and this amendment seeks to establish a Green Party position in this highly emotive area. The amendment has been constructed from examples of end of life policies across the EU and seeks to establish a safe and fair framework for people to have an assisted death.

The Green Party recognises that medical decisions taken towards the end of a person's life should never be undertaken lightly. We believe that when the quality of life is poor (e.g. due to severe dementia) life prolonging treatments such as influenza vaccines and antibiotics should not be given routinely without consideration of the whole situation including the wishes of the patient and relatives.

Many medical interventions provided at the end of a person's life will both relieve suffering and hasten death. We recognise that this can cause concern amount health professionals and the public and will introduce clear guidance to protect all parties.

Assisted death presents moral and legal concerns to health care professionals and the public. We believe that people have a right to an assisted death within the following framework:

* The appointment of an independent advocate must be made when either diagnosis of terminal illness is made or the person receiving care expresses the desire to end their life
* Counselling must always be offered to every patient considering an assisted death
* Alternatives, such as palliative care must be discussed with the patient
* The patient's ability to make the decision must be established by joint assessment of two independent doctors, one of whom should ordinarily be the patient's GP, unless impractical in the circumstances, in which case it may be the patient's medical consultant, one of which must be a psychiatrist and a third independent registered health or social care professional who has undertaken approved training in this area and who has no prior knowledge of the patient.
* This decision must take into account evidence provided by the independent advocate.
* Treatable illnesses that may impinge of the decision making ability, e.g. depression, must be treated and excluded from the rationale for requesting an assisted death
* The patient has the right to appoint individuals either during or prior to the process who will have access to their medical and other records and whom they wish to be involved in discussions
* The patient's informed consent must be clearly documented, full discussion of the outcomes of both the illness and the assisted death must also be provided in a language and form understandable to the patient
* The patient's close family should be involved in all discussions
* There should normally be a waiting period of at least 7 days, set by local policy, for the patient to reflect on their decision.
* Patients could orally revoke the request at any point
* Healthcare professionals can refuse to be party to any stage of assisted deaths for their own moral reasons
* Assisted death will be notifiable

We will introduce legislation based on this framework to ensure the protection of all parties.

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