Courageous Conversations – Understand the difference between assisted dying & suicidality in palliative care contexts

A workshop is being offered for clinicians and counsellors on the complexities of having a challenging
conversations around people wanting to die. Is the person you are caring for suicidal or are they
reflecting on the process of assisted dying?

Barry Taylor, who has worked in suicide prevention for over 35 years at the local, national and
international levels is delivering this online workshop series. The workshop draws on his experience
supporting people dying of AIDS which quite often involved having discussions about their death and
their desire to decide on when and how they died. It was these discussions that necessitated Barry
to examine his own attitudes towards assisted dying, particularly in light of his work in suicide
prevention. From his reflections, his reading of the research on assisted dying and listening to both
suicidal people and those dying he has developed a conceptual model that helps to examine the
similarities and the differences between suicidality and assisted dying.
“The meaning of death for the suicidal person is also not singular, ranging from desire to escape
intolerable ‘psych ache” through to the existential sense that life no longer has purpose or
meaning,” he said.
In a review of all coroner’s files for deaths by suicide for five years he found that the most common
precipitator of suicide in older people was the prognosis that an illness was now terminal and had
moved from treatment to palliative care. Therefore palliative care nurses has an important role in
identifying the possibility of suicidality that is beyond the legal process of assisted dying.
For those with chronic mental illness or non-terminal illnesses such as chronic pain, the lack of
quality of life is seen by some as a justification for ending one’s life. This often poses a dilemma in
making a distinction between assisted dying and suicide and can be challenging for counsellors and
clinicians. Having these difficult conversations is the focus of the workshop series.
Designed specifically for those working in settings such as aged care, hospice, palliative care, illness
specific organisations (e.g. Cancer Society) and loss and grief support services, this workshop series
allows for those from these sectors to collectively examine assisted dying or suicide from the
perspective of legal and ethical issues such as duty care and the philosophy that informs palliative
and hospice care.
Rather than the presentation of definitive answers, the workshops are an opportunity for
participants to explore the complexity and the tensions that arise in both suicide and assisted dying.
There will be opportunity for open discussion and the raising of legal, ethical and moral issues for
group consideration.

The workshop series consists of 3 three hour workshops held weekly on Thursdays 2, 9 & 16 May,
9.30am – 12.30pm. PCNNZ members are being offered a 20% discount of the registration fees
usinng the code PCN20

Register online

No Comments

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.