MSPs raise right to die at home after Shetland GP’s call

The right to have full care at home for a patient’s last few days of life is being raised in the Scottish Parliament by Labour MSP David Stewart.

Mr Stewart, who represents the Highlands and Islands and is the Scottish Party’s Shadow Public Health Minister, is seeking cross-party support for his motion for a member’s debate on the issue.

Shetland GP Susan Bowie raised her concerns with him on a recent visit to the islands and she has also received the support of Mr Stewart’s Highlands and Islands Labour MSP colleague, Rhoda Grant.

Dr Bowie stressed that 70 per cent of the population in Scotland wished to die at home and many Highlands and Islands-based GPs were trained in palliative care supporting that wish.

However, Shetland does not have charities or carers who provide “hospital at home care” and the GP believes that other areas of Scotland may also be in the same position, especially in rural and remote areas.

The GP and the MSPs say there should be an automatic right for people to have full care at home day or night for their last few days of life, so that then can have their wish fulfilled to die at home.

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.”

Mrs Grant added: “The Scottish Government will say we have the choice but without the right to care at home in the last few days of life, and social care or the NHS providing that care, it can’t happen easily especially if someone just has a few relatives.”

Dr Bowie said in the past when someone wished to die at home, she was able to organise help for families in caring for their relatives, as often children find it difficult to take care of their parent’s personal needs.

“This was in the form of ‘hospital at home’ here in Shetland, a list of trained people who would be available occasionally to help if required, and to give relatives a break. It was a great low-cost service,” said the GP.

“However, this was closed in Shetland years ago, but social care cannot fill the gap. Apparently, they are not available at night or at weekends.”

  • Pictured with David is Susan Bowie at her Shetland practice

Motion S5M-19252: David Stewart, Highlands and Islands, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 03/10/2019

Right to Full Care to Die at Home

That the Parliament understands that 70% of the population in Scotland wish to die at home; notes that many Highlands and Islands-based GPs are trained in palliative care that can support those who wish to die at home; believes however that not all areas of the region have charities or carers who provide “hospital at home care”, especially overnight, and notes the calls for there to be an automatic right for people to have full care at home day or night for their last few days of life, so that then can have their wish fulfilled by being able to die at home with suitable palliative care.

Current Status: Eligible for Members’ Business, Pending Cross Party Support