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Assisted Dying Bill puts vulnerable people at risk without improving access to care, say experts

In a joint statement the Association for Palliative Medicine and the National Council for Palliative Care dismissed a change in the law to allow terminally ill people help to end their life early.

"The role of palliative care is to maximise quality of life and support people until they die. It is not to shorten life prematurely," the statement said.

In a damning assessment of the new law proposed by Labour MP Rob Marris the statement said that "the legislative safeguards proposed in the Bill are unsafe".

The group in favour of assisted dying, Dignity in Dying, has not responded to Premier's request for comment.

The Bill "also lacks clarity about what information or experience of palliative care the person seeking assisted suicide should have received", the statement said.

In its current form the Assisted Dying Bill would legalise assistance to die for terminally ill, mentally competent people with less than six months to live.

Claims that the bill would have strong safe guards are dismissed by the group: "Clarity is required about whether a person seeking assisted suicide should merely be given generic written information about palliative care, which is not a strong safeguard."

The experts also criticise and argument sometimes used by those in favour of assisted dying that terminally ill people's deaths are already hastened by an increase in the dose of drugs.

This is "untrue and needs robust rebuttal", the group said, adding that it was "a myth" that "it is common and acceptable practice to hasten a person's death by increasing dosages of pain relief using drugs like morphine".

"It is unacceptable practice to increase morphine doses by such large increments that life is threatened or distressing toxicity develops," the experts say.

"We believe the current Assisted Dying Bill puts vulnerable people at risk, without improving access to care."

Some Christians have come out in support of assisted dying, including the former Archbishop of Canterbury Lord Carey.

Listen to Premier's Antony Bushfield speak to Dr Robert Twycross, a member of the Association for Palliative Medicine and pioneer of the hospice movement: 

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