End-of-life care and physician-assisted dying project

In 2015, we undertook a major project seeking views from our members and the public on their experiences, views, and perceptions of end-of-life care and physician-assisted dying.

Location: UK
Audience: All doctors
Updated: Friday 13 August 2021
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End-of-life care video cover
End-of-life care and physician-assisted dying

We support doctors with a range of practical and ethical challenges they face in every day clinical practice – including caring for patients at the end of life. 

We commissioned social research experts TNS BMRB to design and conduct a series of 21 dialogue events across the UK, through which we heard from more than 500 doctors and members of the public on the following issues:

  • how the perceptions, and reality, of end-of-life care compare to models of good practice
  • the challenges faced by doctors in providing high-quality care at the end of life
  • the possible impact on the doctor-patient relationship if physician-assisted dying were to be legalised.



Volume one - setting the scene

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Volume 1 outlines some of the factual information about the provision of end-of-life care in the UK, and the current legal and political context around assisted dying in the UK and internationally. In this volume you can find:

  • evidence on the provision of, and training in, end-of-life care in the UK
  • evidence on the practical challenges with delivering that care – including the assessment of mental capacity; the difficulties of accurate prognostication; and prescribing analgesics at the end of life
  • an analysis of the debate and development of the law on assisted dying in the UK
  • international evidence on how assisted dying operates in jurisdictions where it is legal.

Volume 2 - public dialogue research

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Volume 2 is the report on the findings from the project events, written by TNS BMRB. Here you can find:

  • an outline of the research design and approach
  • a detailed analysis of the discussion and outcomes from all of our dialogue events
  • key insights into some of the findings.

Volume 3 - reflections and recommendations

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Our third and final volume of the project report details the BMA’s reflections and recommendations on all that has emerged from the research contained in Volumes 1 and 2.

It was clear from our work that although there are many examples of excellent end-of-life care across the UK, there is still significant variability in quality of care. In this volume, we make various recommendations aimed at addressing the current shortfall in end-of-life care provisions.

We also offer some reflections on the findings about physician-assisted dying and the potential impact legalisation might have on the doctor-patient relationship.

As the main aim of this component of the project was to gather information for our own internal debate and discussion, we do not make any recommendations about assisted dying or what role doctors should play in this.

Where we are now

The outcomes from this project continue to help inform our own decisions and lobbying on these topics, and to contribute to the broader public debate.

We lobby governments and healthcare providers on the changes that can be made to end-of-life care provision so that high quality end-of-life care is available throughout the UK.

We also continue to support our members in providing high-quality end-of-life care to patients.

Find out more about our survey on physician-assisted dying and how you can help to shape our stance on it.