Expert working group proposes changes to palliative care – no shared view on the legalisation of euthanasia
An independent working group of experts examined regulatory needs concerning good end-of-life care, patients' right to self-determination, and terminal care and euthanasia. The working group has now completed its final report and submitted it to the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health.
Shortcomings in palliative and terminal care cannot be addressed without amending the legislation
The experts in the working group are unanimous in their view that palliative care and terminal care should be further developed, access to them improved and the related expertise increased. They recognise that recommendations alone will not be enough to address the identified shortcomings and that legislation must be amended, as well.
In its final report, the group proposes amendments to the Act on the Status and Rights of Patients, the Health Care Act and the Health Insurance Act. In addition, the group assessed what kinds of direct costs and savings could be achieved by amending the legislation and by improving the practices of end-of-life care.
No unanimous view was reached on the legalisation of euthanasia
The expert working group does not present a unanimous view as to whether physician-assisted suicide or euthanasia should be legalised.
However, the group has sketched two draft pieces of legislation on physician-assisted suicide and euthanasia should such legislation be considered later. The first is based on the citizens’ initiative and is more limited, whereas the second is more permissive. A third option is to stay within the current legislation. In its final report, the group points out that the legal status of physicians would be unclear should a physician assist a patient in committing suicide.
The social consequences of legalising physician-assisted suicide or euthanasia should be carefully examined, according to the working group. The group hopes that the draft pieces of legislation presented in the final report provide a basis for public debate and outline those legal and ethical issues that would need to be addressed should such legislation be considered later.
Citizens’ initiative for legalising euthanasia served as basis for the working group
The Ministry of Social Affairs and Health appointed the independent working group of experts as a response to the citizens’ initiative for legalising euthanasia. Parliament discussed and rejected the initiative in spring 2018 and called for the appointment of a broad-based working group of experts. The term of the expert working group lasted from 8 May 2018 until 30 June 2021.
The expert working group has earlier published recommendations on palliative care and terminal care and produced a terminal care online course for healthcare and social welfare professionals.
Kristiina Tyynelä-Korhonen, Chair of the expert working group, tel. +358 44 7174876, email: [email protected]
Maija Miettinen, General Secretary of the National Advisory Board on Social Welfare and Health Care Ethics (ETENE), tel. +358 295 163 452, [email protected]
Kaisa Halinen, Senior Ministerial Adviser, tel. +358 295 163 154, [email protected]