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RSM conference on choice at the end of life

Author: Suzanne Stevenson
29 January 2018

The Royal Society of Medicine will hold a new conference next week exploring issues surrounding patient choice at the end of life.

Campaigns to encourage the public to think about and plan for their own death are growing and more importance is being placed on doctors having the training and skills to instigate conversations about end-of-life preferences according to the RSM.

Polling suggests a large majority of the public want more choice and control when facing the end of life, sometimes including assisted dying. Cases where patients and their families are frustrated about the options available to them are increasing. 

Recent attempts to change the law in Parliament to allow assisted dying were rejected and medical institutions including the British Medical Association, Royal College of General Practitioners and Royal College of Physicians all oppose such a move.

The aim of this meeting is to explore how the concept of choice sits within current end-of-life practice, and to question whether a change in the law is needed to provide a clearer framework for doctors, patients and their families.

Speakers will include:

Professor Paul Cosford
Director for Health Protection and Medical Director, Public Health England
Paul will talk of his experience in being diagnosed with an incurable cancer. In order to live well for the time that he has, Paul has found it important to consider what is meant by dying well.

Dr Catherine Forest
Family Medicine Physician, Los Altos, California
This is the first opportunity doctors in the UK will have to hear from someone who has taken part in assisted dying in California, which was legalised in 2016. Catherine will describe her experience of assisting terminally ill patients to hasten death, the process and challenges of implementing the law and what it has meant for doctors and end-of-life care more generally.

Professor Jenny Kitzinger
Co-Director, Coma and Disorders of Consciousness Research Centre, Cardiff University
Active in public and policy engagement particularly around death and dying, Jenny will explore the issues surrounding patients who lack capacity to make choices for themselves and how to ensure patient-centred decisions are made.

Mark Jarman-Howe
Hospice Chief Executive and Director, Dignity in Dying
Learning from Oregon and California suggests that hospice and palliative care can flourish when assisted dying is a legal option. Mark will discuss how hospices might adapt to a change in the law in this country and what safeguards might look like in practice.

The event will take place at the Royal Society of Medicine in central London on Friday 9 February- from 12.45 – 18.30.

More information, including the full programme is available here

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