Friends at the End (FATE) believes everyone has the right to a good death. We provide support to those suffering distress towards the end of their lives, educate the public on existing end of life options, and advocate for the legalisation of assisted dying.
What’s the difference between assisted dying and euthanasia?
Friends at the End is campaigning to legalise assisted dying rather than euthanasia.
Assisted dying is the process of helping someone end their own life. For example, if a doctor provides a drug for a terminally ill patient to take themselves in order to end their life.
Euthanasia is the act of ending another person’s life to relieve suffering. For example, if a doctor injects a terminally ill patient with a drug in order to cause death.
Currently in Scotland there is no legislation governing either assisted dying or euthanasia. The Lord Advocate (prosecutor in Scotland) has indicated that under the current law, assisted dying would be seen as deliberate killing and a charge of murder or culpable homicide could be brought.
Our position on assisted dying
Friends at the End supports the right of every individual to die at a time and place of their choosing. We believe that medically assisted dying should be available to all mentally competent adults with either a terminal illness or an incurable condition, with no reasonable alternative to relieve this, provided this is their own persistent request.
Assisted dying results in fewer people suffering, not in more people dying.
We respect the views of those who do not support this position but whose opposition is equally informed by compassion and concern for people who are suffering. Our aim is to work with others to find common ground and to approach the subject with dignity and respect.
Why are we working to legalise assisted dying?
Friends at the End believe that in a civilised society, nobody should suffer the unnecessary effects of a bad death. We are driven by a desire to reduce pain, indignity and a loss of autonomy at the end of life.
Consider these issues:
Public support: Polls consistently show that 80-90% of the British public support assisted dying.
Refusal of treatment: We currently have the right to accept, refuse or discontinue medical treatment. However, some people who are terminally ill and incurably suffering have no treatment to refuse. Their only choice is refusing fluid and food, essentially dying of dehydration and starvation.
Suicide: Approximately 300 terminally ill people in the UK die alone by suicide every year. Many more attempt to end their life with failed suicides, which is distressing for the person, their loved ones and the emergency services who attend the scene.
Foreign options: Currently, the UK is outsourcing assisted dying to compassionate countries who have legalised assisted dying or euthanasia. But not everyone who wants to can turn to organisations such as Dignitas or Eternal Spirit in Switzerland. They must be physically able to travel and be able to afford the costs involved, roughly £10,000.
Terminal sedation: The final stages of death are often treated by increasing pain killers and by giving sedatives which induce sleep. The patient slides into coma and then death occurs in what’s known as ‘terminal sedation’. Often the patient takes no part in these decisions. Assisted dying avoids the period of suffering, loss of consciousness and dignity, and is a very different experience for both patients and their families. A law would also provide accountability and transparency around these end of life decisions.
Limits of palliative care: We do not consider assisted dying to be an alternative to good quality end of life care. We believe it should be an additional option at the end of life. Some dying people cannot have their suffering adequately relieved, even with the best palliative care. Pain is not the only issue. Many find severe weakness and total dependence on others incredibly distressing. Research has shown that in Scotland, even with the best palliative care, 11 Scots per week will still die a bad death.
“There is nothing noble about excruciating pain and I think we need as a nation to give people the right to decide their own fate.”
– Lord Carey, former Archbishop of Canterbury