“There’s no question that an ‘assisted dying’ law would very negatively impact wider access to palliative care.”

– Dr Juliet Spiller

Dr Juliet Spiller, consultant in palliative medicine, Edinburgh

As a palliative doctor with more than two decades of experience in different settings, Dr Juliet Spiller opposes ‘assisted dying’. She is deeply concerned that a change in the law would:

  • Inevitably result in abuses against seriously ill patients.
  • Undermine access to quality palliative care for all Scots.
  • Impact doctors’ ability to support patients at the end of life.
  • Negatively affect recruitment to end-of-life medicine.
  • See hospices pressured to offer ‘assisted dying’ or lose funding.

Dr Spiller says:

“There is no way to make this safe. In healthcare at the moment there are countless examples of well-intentioned policies that have been misused, abused, or misunderstood – where poor practice has resulted, and safeguards have been lost or overlooked. It is simply not possible to safeguard so robustly that people don’t fall prey to abuse. When the outcome is death, that’s a really serious thing.

“The evidence base is really non-existent in terms of what works when it comes to ‘assisted death’. Some people take oral medication and die within an hour. Some people take the same medication, and it is days. Sometimes it doesn’t work. Sometimes they are sick. Sometimes they might have a seizure. Sometimes they might become very agitated and distressed.

“There’s no question that an ‘assisted dying’ law would very negatively impact wider access to palliative care. The idea that you can focus on providing access to assisted suicide and palliative care is misguided. You can’t do both. We see from other countries that, as soon as you introduce assisted suicide as a treatment, the quality of palliative care is reduced.

“We need to ensure that every person living with a terminal diagnosis has access to all the support they need. That they are able to plan ahead, to identify what really matters to them. The amount of political attention and resources dedicated to end-of-life care at present is tiny, compared to other areas of clinical practice. We need a much bigger focus on how we ensure everyone in Scotland has equitable access to excellent palliative care.”