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“The time for ‘Death with Dignity’ to be the law of the land has come”, US experts tell Scots audience

A leading expert from the United States will today address an audience in Glasgow to share her knowledge and expertise about how to effectively implement a law to allow patients with terminal or life shortening conditions to have a dignified death at a time of their choosing whilst also protecting vulnerable groups.

Dr. Peg Sandeen, Executive Director of Death with Dignity National Centre, will speak at the free event in the Mitchell Library in Glasgow organised by campaign group Friends At The End (FATE).

The Death with Dignity National Centre, based in Oregon in the United States, exists to promote Death with Dignity laws based on the model legislation, the Oregon Death with Dignity Act, both to provide an option for dying individuals and to stimulate nationwide improvements in end-of-life care.

During her speech, Dr. Sandeen will outline in detail her experience in the US State of Oregon which has had a Dignity in Dying law in effect for over 15 years after it was approved in a state-wide referendum.

During her speech, Dr. Sandeen will say: “Under Oregon’s law patients must submit written and oral requests separated by two different waiting periods, receive confirmation of diagnosis, prognosis and mental competence by two doctors. Every step of the process is in the hands of the patient, and there is criminal prosecution for those who interfere with or coerce the patient.”

“The State of Oregon issues annual reports to the people about how Death with Dignity is used in the state. From this, we know that the practice is rarely used. Roughly one-third of people who are able obtain the medication do not do so, but rather go on to die from their underlying disease knowing that they had the option until the very end. Approximately 90% are enrolled in hospice, showing that palliative care and Death with Dignity go hand-in-hand as two compatible end-of-life care options.”

“The time for Death with Dignity to be the law of the land has come. Terminally ill individuals deserve the best quality care and treatment available to them, and if they so choose, they deserve a humane and compassionate death as well.”

Sheila Duffy, spokesperson for FATE said: “We are delighted that someone with the knowledge and experience of Dr. Sandeen has agreed to speak in Scotland. Although the most recent attempt at legislation on a dignified death in Scotland failed at Holyrood, the support amongst MSPs has doubled and, with strong and growing public support it is clear that this issue is not going to go away.”

“The experience of Oregon shows that a well-drafted law can provide those suffering from terminal or life-threatening conditions with the option of ending their lives in a dignified manner at a time of their choosing, whilst protecting vulnerable groups from coercion. I am looking forward to hearing more from Dr. Sandeen and using that knowledge to shape the next steps in our campaign in Scotland.”

Notes to Editors

Interviews with Dr. Sandeen are available in advance or at and after the event. To arrange or for more information, contact Graeme Downie on 07973 300 184 or at graeme.downie@orbit-comms.co.uk

The event will take place in the Mitchell Library in Glasgow, on Saturday 21 November, 2015, at 2pm.

About Dr. Peg Sandeen

Peg is the Executive Director of the Death with Dignity National Center (DDNC) and a native Iowan. She earned her PhD in Social Work and Social Research from Portland State University and her master's degree in Social Work from the University of Iowa.

Peg's an experienced direct practice social worker, specializing in issues related to terminal illness and end-of-life processes, and has an extensive background in policy analysis and strategic leadership for policy reform efforts through both ballot initiative and legislative means. Prior to her engagement with DDNC, she was the Executive Director of the AIDS Project of Central Iowa.

As a result of her exploration of complex ethical, legal and medical issues related to social work, Peg was named a Price Fellow in HIV Prevention Leadership by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Her scholarly and professional efforts focus on health-related ethical concerns, particularly end-of-life decision-making, and the impact of public opinion on policy reform. Peg joined DDNC in March 2005.

About FATE

Friends at the End is a Scottish based organisation promoting knowledge about end-of-life choices. Choice is available at every stage in our lives except death – not everyone dies an easy death, and FATE believes in choosing how, when and where we make our exit when we have physically suffered enough.

We support carers and those suffering pain and distress especially at the end of life and believe a change in the law on assisted dying is long overdue.

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