October 21st, 2011 | The Blog
This week in the UK, the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) announced that nurses must engage in discussions of assisted suicide, if a patient broaches the subject.
In the new RCN guide titled “When Someone Asks for Your Assistance to Die,” it is stated that although assisting suicide is still illegal in the UK, nurses must converse with dying patients who inquire about assisted suicide through a ‘non-judgmental assessment of needs.’
In an article on NursingTimes.net, executive RCN director, Janet Davies, said:
“There are patients who talk about ending their lives as another way of expressing concerns about their condition or their level of pain. Nurses shouldn’t feel that asking them about these comments is giving the impression that they are assisting or encouraging that patient to take their own life. Such conversations might be the only time a patient discusses their worries, and it is an essential part of professional nursing practice to recognize and explore concerns with each and every patient where possible.”
Davies goes on to say:
“More than anything, what nurses want to see is a situation where they are able to provide dignified end of life care, where concerns about pain, suffering or loss of control can be discussed and managed. For this to happen, end of life care has to be prioritized, and patients should expect the same level of dignified and expert care wherever they die.”
In the US, assisted suicide is illegal in all but three states. In 1994, Oregon became the first state to legally allow terminally ill people to end their lives with physician assistance. In 2006, the Supreme Court upheld Oregon’s unique physician-assisted suicide law and rejected an attempt from the Bush administration to punish doctors who help terminally ill patients die. Washington and Montana also have legalized assisted suicide.