Bioethics Blogs

British Medical Association Issues Report – “End of Life Care and Physician Assisted Dying”

The British Medical  Association has just published a two volume report on end-of-life care.  

BMA calls for UK Governments to prioritize end-of-life care.  New research finds the current provision does not consistently match either the public or doctor’s expectations.

The research found that while there were pockets of excellence in end-of-life care across the country, the current system has led to a variation in the level of care between regions, within hospital authority areas, and based on a patient’s condition.  Four areas of concern were raised:

1. Communication

End-of-life care and dying were seen to be a topic which many people found uncomfortable, even to discuss between family and loved ones. Doctors recognised that communication between them, the patient and the family could be critical in making end-of-life easier to understand and accept, but many doctors felt uncomfortable about the prospect of having to give uncertain answers particularly on the timescale of life expectancy. 

During the study, very few doctors claimed to have had adequate training in discussing death and the dying process with patients, with many doctors having to develop these skills ‘on the job’. One doctor said: ‘We should say, ‘You are coming to the end of your life’. I think that is where we are failing patients. We are not preparing them. We are not even mentioning the word… So it all comes as a huge surprise… We should be far more frank.’ 

2. Medical services

Doctors were concerned that the quality of end-of-life care is varied. There was a generally held view that patients dying from cancer received better medical care because of the way cancer services were organised.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.