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Expert body to examine end-of-life care, euthanasia

06 Jun 2018, 03:34 ( 06 Jun, 2018) | updated: 06 Jun 2018, 10:54 ( 06 Jun, 2018)

DF Report
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The Ministry of Social Affairs and Health has appointed a working group to examine regulatory needs concerning good end-of-life care and patients' right to self-determination as well as terminal care and euthanasia.

End-of-life care encompasses palliative care, meaning treatment aimed at providing relief from symptoms, and terminal care, said an official press release.

As is the case in most European countries, euthanasia is prohibited by law in Finland. However, there are some countries, such as Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, Colombia and Canada, where currently valid legislation allows for euthanasia or assisted suicide.

“The appointment of the working group is a response to the need highlighted in the citizens’ initiative concerning euthanasia that was submitted to Parliament,” said Family Affairs and Social Services Minister Annika Saarikko.

The aim of the citizens’ initiative was to help dying and suffering individuals who wish to receive assistance in dying of their own free will in a situation where medical treatment can no longer provide adequate help.

The initiative also called for the availability of high-quality palliative care and terminal care to be comprehensively secured throughout Finland. Parliament dismissed the actual initiative in May 2018, but called for the appointment of a broad-based expert working group to examine the matter further.

 “There are many ethical questions associated with end-of-life care, one of the most important of which is the equality of citizens in regard to admission to care,” Saarikko said.

In the first phase, the working group will form an overview of the social and health care services system and ongoing developments in regard to the arrangement of palliative care and terminal care as well as of the legislation governing end-of-life care. In addition to this, the working group will examine legislation and practices concerning euthanasia and assisted suicide in other countries.

In the second phase, the working group will conduct an initial assessment of the need for legislative changes concerning euthanasia. However, the actual need for legislative changes for allowing euthanasia can only be genuinely assessed once palliative and terminal care services have been comprehensively put into practice in Finland.

There is also a sub-working group operating under the expert working group, which is tasked with planning and steering the use of the appropriation granted by Parliament in autumn 2017. A one million euro appropriation is to be used for the development of palliative care and terminal care in special areas of responsibility as well as for organising a national training and communications campaign.