Palliative treatment alleviates pain and other symptoms, such as nausea and breathlessness, of medical conditions which cannot be cured. It has improved dramatically worldwide in the past 20 years, and it is important to note that it is continuing to get better every year.
Much care in the UK is provided free by charitable hospices, though some by the NHS. The hospice movement was started in the UK by Dame Cicely Saunders to address “total pain” , mental and spiritual as well as physical, in incurable patients, adults and children, and to support their families and close friends. The UK leads the world in palliative care, though everyone admits there is room for further improvement in making the best care available to all. It can be treatment at home, as an out-patient, or in a hospice or hospital.
Experts say that no one should suffer intolerable pain, though in up to 5% of cases of terminal cancer this might involve sedation, either temporarily or for a short time at the very end of life. Many of the claims by pro-euthanasiasts (for example that Motor Neurone Disease sufferers will choke to death) are irresponsible scare-mongering.
The Health Minister Els Borst who presided over the Netherlands infamous euthanasia law has admitted that it was a mistake, and that palliative care there is inadequate. In Oregon, patients refused expensive cancer drugs have been offered a free suicide kit. Hospice care in the USA is very different from in the UK, and involves resigning entitlement to treatment of the condition.
Legalising the negative quick-fix of assisted suicide would inevitably lead to a deterioration in palliative care for those with incurable conditions, who are overwhelmingly opposed, as are palliative care doctors, not just here but worldwide, to any relaxation of the law protecting them.