‘There is dignity in natural death’


I have worked as the manager of a charity that provided care at home and as a district nurse. I am trained in palliative care and have significant experience caring for those with terminal illness and chronic conditions. Based on my experience, I fear that many elderly people will feel compelled to opt for an ‘assisted death’ because they feel that they are a burden on their families or the NHS.

Over the years, I have encountered rare examples of family members or neighbours requesting that I or nursing colleagues increase medication to bring about death more quickly. The purpose of this has been, sadly, so that the relative might gain money, property, or some other inheritance more quickly. This is shocking, I know, but it happens, and I fear that such incidents would be more prevalent under an assisted dying law.

I have had patients ask me to kill them as their suffering is so great. But in every case, once they have received the correct treatment – counselling, pain relief or just emotional support – they have changed their minds and later thanked me for not assisting their suicide. They have gone on to enjoy extra life and seasons, important events like weddings or the birth of a grandchild and then been able to say a proper goodbye to family and friends.

There can always be dignity in natural death if it is handled well and with enough resources. A good death does look dignified, even in the most difficult of circumstances.