Nurse holds patient's hand

Academic report from LSBU find assisted dying gives individuals quality at the end of life

22 March 2023

A new LSBU academic research report on terminally ill individuals’ attitudes to assisted dying by London South Bank University (LSBU) has found terminally ill individuals want a ‘good death’, one that is pain-free, that they have control over and enables them to retain their emotional wellbeing.

The new LSBU research is the first to look at assisted dying through the lens of self-determination theory, which suggests that all human behaviour is motived by three universal needs: Autonomy, the mental ability to make their own decisions (‘Competence’) and connection with others (‘Relatedness’). Assisted dying has previously been seen as a product of ‘loss’ (loss of dignity, control, and independence). However, the report argues that assisted dying actually gives terminally ill individuals control over the dying process (Autonomy), enabling them to make end-of-life decisions and die how they wish to. This gives a sense of mastery over the dying process (Competence), and finally, they can have a minimally distressing death that they are happy to share with family and friends (Relatedness).

The report calls for the introduction of legislation which will give more safeguards and protection to vulnerable individuals than what is currently in place. With a blanket ban on assisted dying, many practices are secretive and can lead to people attempting to end their suffering alone, or their friends and family risking conviction to help their loved ones.

Dr Jaimee Mallion, Senior Psychology Lecturer at LSBU and author of the report, said, “This new research was the first in the UK to explore the role of basic human needs in understanding assisted dying, and found it allows terminally ill individuals to secure a sense of autonomy, competence, and connection. It was a very interesting project that has been submitted as evidence for assisted dying consultations in Jersey and the Isle of Man, and as a Parliamentary Briefing to MSP.”

The report is titled ‘“Ending Death, Not Ending Life” Understanding Positive Attitudes toward Assisted Dying in the UK’.

To read more about LSBU’s world-leading research, visit LSBU Research Blogs