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Doctors and patients to be part of major new research examining end of life care

27 November 2014

The British Medical Association (BMA) has announced that will undertake a major new research project examining end of life care and physician-assisted dying.

Beginning next year, the project will explore the practical and ethical issues surrounding end of life care and collect the most comprehensive body of qualitative research in this area.

Research topics will include:
  • the quality, availability and accessibility of end of life care in the UK
  • the impact of physician-assisted dying on the doctor-patient relationship and how dying patients are cared for
  • the assessment of mental capacity and the accuracy of prognosis in terminal stages.

BMA council chair Mark Porter explained that while the BMA had long-established policy in opposition to physician-assisted dying, the association recognised there were strongly held views in the medical profession on the many facets of the issue.

He said: "By engaging directly with doctors and patients we aim to compile the most comprehensive body of qualitative research into end of life care and physician-assisted dying that will not only inform the BMA’s future discussions but will play a significant part in the ongoing public debate."

Dr Porter added: "We believe now is the time to start a full and informed debate that addresses the wider medical, legal and emotive issues around end of life care.

"This means examining how palliative care is provided nationally, ensuring that patients are not faced with a postcode lottery, and that clinical staff have the right knowledge and training for treating dying patients with the respect, dignity and compassion they deserve.

"We also want to take the opportunity to explore the deeper practical and ethical issues around physician-assisted dying, such as the impact on the doctor-patient relationship, which engages with not just doctors but also the public."

Events will be held across the UK to engage doctors and the public. The BMA said that doctors will be invited at random to participate in the events, selected from within categories that are representative of the overall membership, while an external organisation will be used to recruit members of the public to ensure a representative selection.

See more articles in Research

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