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Last Updated: Tuesday, 25 November, 2003, 11:50 GMT
Nurses want to help patients die
Many nurses support a law change
A third of nurses think they should be allowed to help patients commit suicide, a survey finds.

The poll, of more than 2,700 nurses by Nursing Times magazine, also found one in four nurses said they had been asked to help a patient end their life.

Almost two out of three said they wanted voluntary euthanasia - where life support is withdrawn - to be legalised.

And 40% admitted to administering a pain relief drug to dying patients knowing it could hasten their death.

Rachel Downey, editor of Nursing Times, said: "Nurses are at the side of dying patients who are in extreme discomfort and they want to ease that pain and suffering.

"However at present they are placed in a very difficult and unclear position.

"As our survey reveals, one in four nurses have administered higher doses of pain relief medication to ease the suffering of their patients but knowing this could advance death.

"However our survey shows that one third of nurses are opposed to any legislation of euthanasia.

"Therefore an open, transparent debate is needed."

Amanda Callaghan, of the Royal College of Nursing, told BBC News Online that the college was firmly against assisted suicide and euthanasia.

She said: "It is not legal, and we don't condone it. What's more we are concerned that alarmist headlines may serve to undermine the trust that is so important between nurses and patient's families."

Ms Callaghan added that the RCN had done a lot of work on how to ensure terminally ill patients were given high quality care, and kept free of pain.

Public support

Deborah Annetts, director of the Voluntary Euthanasia Society, said over 80% of the public supported the right of terminally ill patients to choose medical help to die.

But she said the fact that many nurses felt the same way showed just how widespread support was for the idea.

"That nearly two thirds of nurses support the patient's right to choose is a real boost to terminally ill people campaigning for a change in the law."

The Liaison Committee of the House of Lords has recommended a Select Committee consider the Patient (Assisted Dying) Bill in the New Year.

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