What is the end-of-life debate?
Almost daily we hear or read stories about dying - about how we want to die, how we are dying and how we should be dying. For example, it is suggested in some quarters that there should be a 'right to die' - meaning that doctors should be licensed by law to supply lethal drugs to terminally ill patients at their request. Alarmist stories also appear sometimes in the press suggesting that doctors and nurses are depriving dying people of food and water and hastening their deaths.
What are we to make of all this? The issues involved in this important end-of-life debate are complex: they involve many interconnected fields of expertise, including the law, clinical practice, mental health, ethics and social attitudes. To the lay person it can be bewildering trying to find a way through this maze of contentious argument and to form a balanced and objective view. The publicity that these issues often receive can also create alarm, much of it unnecessary, about death and the process of dying.
What does Living and Dying Well do?
Living and Dying Well was formed in 2010 to research the serious evidence surrounding these issues, to apply clear thinking to them and to publish the results. We produce regular reports on specific aspects of the end-of-life debate and we hold seminars from time to time on topical issues. We also provide speakers for debates in universities and other bodies and we participate in conferences and seminars. Our aim is to ensure that the information that reaches Parliament and the public on these often-contentious issues is grounded in hard evidence and rigorous analysis rather than in spin and sensationalism. To this end, in addition to our periodic reports, we offer a website containing a wide range of factual material and comment on issues of the day.
What do we think?
Our Patrons and Members include experts in the law, medicine, mental health, ethics and other disciplines related to the end-of-life debate. They do not hold identical views on all aspects of the debate, but they share a common concern that public safety is of paramount importance in this area and that some of the ideas that are being put forward - for example, that doctors should be licensed by law to supply lethal drugs to terminally ill patients to help them commit suicide - are not compatible with this and would put vulnerable people at serious risk of harm. We fully respect the motivations of those who may take a different view. Qualities such as compassion and sincerity are common currency to both sides of the 'assisted dying' debate. What is needed, however, is rigorous analysis of the evidence, an understanding of the facts - for example, about what the law actually is rather than what it is sometimes thought to be - and use of clear and unambiguous language free of spin, euphemism or sensationalism. That is what we are here to do.