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RCN launches guidance on assisted suicide

Nurses who respond to patients considering ending their lives should not feel they are "assisting" or "encouraging" their decision, it is claimed.

Guidance from the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) launched today (20 October) is said to recognise the need to "provide support to nurses and healthcare assistants when patients talk about or hint at ending their lives or hastening their deaths."

By following the approaches set out in the guidance, When someone asks for your assistance to die: RCN guidance on responding to a request to hasten death, Janet Davies, Executive Director of Nursing and Service Delivery for the RCN, claims nurses can help patients to discuss and explore their feelings "without being concerned that their actions will be misinterpreted".

"There are patients who talk about ending their lives as another way of expressing concerns about their condition or their level of pain," said Davies.

"Nurses shouldn't feel that asking them about these comments is giving the impression that they are assisting or encouraging that patient to take their own life.

"Such conversations might be the only time a patient discusses their worries, and it is an essential part of professional nursing practice to recognise and explore concerns with each and every patient where possible."

The guidance covers the legal situations in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, where assisting another person to commit suicide is illegal.

RCN Guidance

Your comments (terms and conditions apply):

"When the dying are dying and want assistance with the ardent process, it is not "suicide" and must stop being referred to as such. I am speaking from personal experience, as my son, Nick Loving, was assisted by Dr Kevorkian, in 1995. For god's sake, let the world stop the double talk" - Carol Loving