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NMC reminds nurses that rules have not changed on assisted dying

A year-long review has concluded that rules on assisted dying in England and Wales should be changed to allow nurses to help some patients to die.

The Commission on Assisted Dying, set up by the campaign group Dignity in Dying and chaired by Lord Falconer, recommended that some adult patients who were suffering and likely to die within a year could safely be offered the choice of assisted dying.

Patients would have to make a voluntary choice expressing their own wishes and be mentally capable of doing so, the commission’s report said.

It added that one of the safeguards needed to accompany any change in the law should include new codes of practice from regulators like the Nursing and Midwifery Council for any professionals taking on a role in assisted dying.

However, some palliative care nurses who gave evidence to the review were concerned the risk of harm to vulnerable people outweighed the potential benefits of a change in the law.

One said: “It’s a very small minority of people who would actually make use of [assisted dying] and I think that for the sake of that minority, does everything have to change for everybody else, and do we have to put the vulnerable at risk?”

The NMC also issued a statement reminding nurses that laws on assisted suicide remained unchanged at present.

“Nurses and midwives are personally accountable for their actions and must act lawfully at all times,” it stated. “This is clearly stated in their code of professional conduct. Assisting the suicide of a patient is against the law.”

Readers' comments (9)

  • Thank you NMC for reminding us that we are still not allowed to kill patients.........

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  • We are not stupid, and the NMC need to remember that.

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  • It is one thing for the NMC's guidance to state that nurses must obey the law (which it definitely does state) and another to claim that current clinical guidance 'around dying' is both clear and correctly in line with the law.

    The NMC does not answer certain crucial questions, in that area, as it happens.

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  • Who would be a nurse these days? I pity the new batch of recruits.

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  • The NMC alongside the govenment really do not respect nurses or think that we have any morals or legal understanding. Do they not think that we read anything but the tabloid newspapers or off the wall blogs on the internet. Assisted Dying will never, I REPEAT, never going to be allowed to be undertaken by ANY nurse but a team of senior (and well trained, we hope), professionals. Patients will have to go through counselling etc before they can go through with their wishes. I presume that the NMC assumes that there will be a spate of Beverley Allit's and whatever is happening at Stepping Hill cases. These CRIMES are carried out by misguided and mentally ill criminals, not the majority of hard working and intelligent nurses. Assisted dying will be at the consent of the dying person NOT and not even for patients who may be suffering and say something off hand like ' I wish I were dead'. I know there are real issues with nurse training and recruitment and horrible crimes that are carried out, but please get real and please can all those mistrusting big wigs in their ivory towers give us nurses some respect.

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  • the attitude towards nurses seems to be that we are a bunch of school kids to be managed!

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  • People ARE allowed to commit suicide. Nurses are not allowed to assist and long may that remain.The NMC are careful to say we must follow the law. Yes indeed whilst the law remains ethical and morally correct. If the law is changed to allow assisted deaths and inevitably euthanasia, then the NMC will go along with it. They do nor stand up for nurses. Their job is to protect the public and ensure nurses fulfil their roles. The BMA have stated that their oath WILL stand whatever the law decides. We are trained to care, not kill. Everyone has rights but no one has the right to ask someone else to kill them or assist in their death. So much is talked about "autonomy", but what about Nurse "autionomy? We are bound, firstly, to do no harm and to prevent others harming our patients . What can be more harmful than death? It is so final! Many people who have been expected to die, dont die for weeks, months and even years. What about mis-diagnosis! there have been so many cases in the news lately of people being told they had cancer and no hope of recovery, with devastating results, only to find, months later that they dont have cancer at all. If legal,they may have opted for assisted death rather than face things. Lets leave it alone.Lets not endanger many for the desires of a few.
    The commission was bias in favour of euthanasia, and most professionals refused to give witness because it was not offical and has not given testomony of many witness's which I saw on video, who were very much against changing the law and gave many negative results if it was to be changed. Many attempted deaths have failed and the persons never asked for assistance again. Many have side effects such as clonus, vomiting and coma, without death and have to have a lethal dose of opoids, thus turning the scene from assisted dying to euthanasia. Inthe Netherlands, nurses have to give the medication because doctors dont want to do it and it will be the same elsewhere. We have no opt-out consciencious objection clause in the Code!

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  • Nurses say no to any change in the law regarding Assisted death! We have enough on our plates.

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  • As nurses we should be looking at why people see assisted suicide as the preferred option and do our best to address that issue rather than engaging in a debate which is illegal at present and will always be immoral. I am not and never will be an angel of death

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