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Physios have ethical duty to promote life

1 November 2010 - 3:05pm

People can and should die well at the end of their life, and health professionals have an ethical duty to help if they have the means, the CSP’s president, Professor Baroness Finlay, told Congress.

It was a basic human right to be able to decide how our life ends, but assisted suicide was cutting off life deliberately before it was intended, she said.

Fear of pain was the main driver causing patients to desire death, and physios should not underestimate their power to help to improve someone’s quality of life, and therefore desire to live.

The message being sent out to patients should be ‘you are worth me working hard for’, rather than ‘you are right to think that you’d be better off dead’, she said.

Improving the life of someone with a progressive disease was not easy, she warned, but symptom control and psychological support could help patients to set realistic hopes and aspirations.

‘Dignity is about having a sense of personal wealth,’ she said. ‘The way that care is given removes or confirms that dignity... As health professionals, our role is to help other people live.’

Robert Preston, clerk to the House of Lords select committee’s work on assisted dying for the terminally ill, said the central issue on assisted suicide was not morality or compassion but ‘is it safe to change the law to make this legal?’

‘The current law has a stern face but a kind heart,’ he said. ‘It deters action but has understanding and is flexible enough to be compassionate... But if an assisted suicide law were to be created, would it give people a licence to kill?’

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