Assisted Dying for the Terminally Ill Bill
Statement from the Royal College of Psychiatrists on Physician Assisted Suicide

07 April 2006

THE ROYAL COLLEGE OF PSYCHIATRISTS IS DEEPLY WORRIED ABOUT THE LIKELY EFFECTS OF THE ASSISTED DYING FOR THE TERMINALLY ILL BILL IF IT WERE TO BE ENACTED

Not only are many of us very concerned about the ethics of PAS in general, but we are also extremely concerned about the effect in particular on other patients of doctor-assisted suicide becoming part of the role of a psychiatrist.

If the Bill were enacted, The Royal College of Psychiatrists would strongly recommend the availability of effective concerned psychiatric physicians who will see people who have to face the problem of a potentially painful death or one in which quality of life is judged to be extremely low.

The College supports the availability of high quality palliative care and recommends that such teams should have a psychiatrist available to assist, recognising the extent of co-morbid physical and mental illness at the end of life.

We are very concerned that if this legislation were enacted, it would become impossible to restrict it to people with a limited life expectancy.

We are also very concerned about the effect of physician assisted suicide on families, and suggest that support for families of identified patients may be needed for a lengthy period .

If PAS were enacted, there should be at least two independent assessments, as for other serious decisions under legislation. Since suicidality fluctuates, the assessments should first trigger expert psychiatric advice on treatment of depression, and there should be two specialist assessments, spaced, for example, at least two months apart with offers of treatment for both depression and pain, so that there is time for the suicidal ideation to abate - since the ending of life is irrevocable