15th October 2019
Established 1872. Online since 1996.

MSP raises right to die at home after Shetland GP’s call

A GP has sparked a parliamentary call to recognise the right to die at home, with her case being taken up by the Scottish parliament’s shadow public health minister.

Susan Bowie argues many people who want to end their days in their own homes are unable to fulfil their dying wish because of a lack of round-the-clock care.

The Hillswick GP says health boards and councils are not “compelled” to provide 24 hour care to people wishing to die at home.

“It really depends on whether there is anybody else available,” she told The Shetland Times.

She has raised her concerns with Labour MSP David Stewart, who is highlighting her concerns at Holyrood.

The Highlands and Islands MSP is seeking cross-party support for a motion he is bringing forward for a member’s debate on the issue.

Dr Bowie said 70 per cent of Scotland’s population wished to die at home. Many isles-based GPs are trained in palliative care supporting that wish.

Adding his support, Mr Stewart said: “Susan raises an important point, that you have the right to be born at home and the NHS provides midwives, but we don’t have the right to carers to enable us to die at home.

“I am worried that people on Shetland are being treated differently to those in the rest of Scotland due to lack of carers who can go in and support patients for their final few days.

“Often relatives are unable to do this, or just need a break from caring for their loved one, during a very stressful period.

“I hope other MSPs from all parties can get on board and highlight this so that a solution can be found.”

Interim director of community health and social care, Jo Robinson, argued Shetland had the highest percentage of anywhere in Scotland – 94 per cent – when it came to the last six months of life spent at home.

“This is the highest percentage of anywhere in Scotland, and consistently the highest percentage in Scotland since 2013/14.

“However, the health board recognises the desire for even more people to be supported to die at home.”

• Read our full story in tomorrow’s Shetland Times.

About Ryan Taylor

Ryan Taylor has worked as a reporter since 1995, and has been at The Shetland Times since 2007, covering a wide variety of news topics. Before then he reported for other newspapers in the Highlands, where he was raised, and in Fife, where he began his career with DC Thomson. He also has experience in broadcast journalism with Grampian Television. He has lived in Shetland since 2002, where he harbours an unhealthy interest in old cars and motorbikes.

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