Volume 24, Number 4, April 2023 Supplement - Section II: Opinions

Heads of regional associations

The large majority of people in the Caribbean object to assisted dying on religious grounds, as it is considered a grave sin to actively choose your time of death.

Dingle Spence
President-Elect, Caribbean Palliative Care Association (CARIPALCA); physician in clinical oncology and palliative medicine; Senior Medical Officer, Hope Institute Hospital, Jamaica

The IAHPC survey highlights the fact that there are many health care professionals working in palliative care and other specialties who believe the debate on assisted dying practices should be kept alive. The survey highlighted that there is concern that the discussion around assisted dying causes confusion in the minds of the public and may hinder the development of palliative care. In the Caribbean there is little evidence of this. It is very clear to a person of religious faith that their active involvement in choosing the time of their death would be considered a grave sin to be roundly condemned. What is of paramount and urgent importance in our setting is to increase the levels of palliative care provision and, importantly, access to opioid medicines for pain relief, so that people don’t have to say, “I just want to die as there is no way to get relief from my pain.”

While the public debate on assisted suicide and euthanasia comes in waves in our region, there is certainly a small but persistent minority who believe that assisted dying should be available to a narrowly defined population of people for whom death would be a welcome outcome. This minority is buffered by the large public majority who object principally on moral and religious grounds, and the many physicians who would opt out were such practices to become legalized.

We thank the IAHPC for conducting this enlightening survey.

Dr. Spence is committed to palliative care education, service development, and research and advocacy, both nationally and across the Caribbean region. She is a founding member of the Jamaica Pain Collaborative, the Palliative Care Association of Jamaica, the Caribbean Palliative Care Association, and the Jamaica Cancer Care and Research Institute.

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