NHS must ensure a 'good death' for terminally ill, says MSP

THE health service will be forced to provide better care for terminally ill patients if proposals unveiled at the Scottish Parliament yesterday are successful.

Roseanna Cunningham, an SNP MSP, published a consultation on a bill that would place a legal duty on health boards to provide high-quality palliative care to those who need it.

The consultation document included examples of patients who suffered unnecessary pain before their deaths due to a lack of adequate end-of-life care. It pointed out that while patients with cancer often received good palliative care, those with other terminal illnesses were not properly cared for.

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"Surely we all have a right for it to be as dignified and pain-free as possible," said Ms Cunningham, the MSP for Perth. In August, a report by Audit Scotland found an inconsistent approach to palliative care for different illnesses and called for improvements.

Marie Fallon, professor of palliative medicine at Edinburgh University and a director of the St Margaret of Scotland Hospice, in Clydebank, supported the proposed bill. "Although there are inherently subjective elements in what may be said to constitute a good death, it is essentially about being treated as an individual, with dignity and respect, being without pain and other symptoms," she said.