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C of E view of assisted dying, and chaplaincy care at life’s close

by
18 January 2012

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From the Revd Nicolas Stacey

Sir, — The reaction of church lead­ers to the report of the Commission on Assisted Dying makes one fear that the Church is going to shoot itself in its foot, as it has done over secular society’s attitude to homo­sexuality and the part played by women in society.

It will limp along, tearing itself apart and greatly weakening itself in the process, as it eventually comes round to accepting the leadership of secular society in these three critical issues. Churchmen who are confused over the case for assisted dying should read Canon Paul Badham’s excellent SPCK paperback Is There a Case for Assisted Dying?

I write as one who in 58 years of priestly ministry spent 11 years of them as Director of Social Services for Kent Council (population 1.5 million), in which one of my re­spon­sibilities was providing care for all the old people who were not in hospital but who could not care for themselves.

NICOLAS STACEY
The Old Vicarage, Selling
Faversham, Kent ME13 9RD

From Mr Paul Salter

Sir, — I note your article on NICE guidance on spiritual and religious care for patients as they approach death, and for families after a patient’s death (News, 6 January).

In this hospital, with the full support of the hospital board and the palliative-care team, chaplains are automatically notified by staff when a patient is put on the Liver­pool Care Pathway as the patient approaches death. We then visit the patient and the family to offer, as sensitively as possible, our care and support.

Over a recent four-month period, our records indicate that: 64 per cent of patients/families requested overt spiritual/religious input (prayers) and ongoing support; 25 per cent received pastoral support only; four per cent declined support; and, for seven per cent, we were unable to establish needs, as the patient was unresponsive and there was no family attending.

We have been operating this service now for more than two-and-a-half years. There have been no complaints about our care, but many compliments. We believe that not only has this service helped ensure a more compassionate, considerate experience for patients and families at the end of life, but also it has enhanced the part that we play in the hospital, as well as enriching our ministry.

PAUL SALTER
Chaplaincy Co-ordinator
North Tees & Hartlepool NHS
Foundation Trust
Hardwick Road
Stockton on Tees TS19 8PE

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