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.”