Nurses in the UK are calling for a reconsideration of the laws governing euthanasia

At their annual meeting the Royal College of Nursing heard arguments in favour of terminally-ill patients having the right to decide when and how to end their lives.

Nurse Helen Ingram, from south London, said she was disappointed the RCN was not going to rethink its position on euthanasia.

Margaret Devlin, from Northern Ireland, said palliative care often involved invasive procedures, or repeated attempts to fit intravenous drips and there is nothing merciful about that.

But other nurses said patients should not be helped to die, and that the real problem was poor access to good quality care.

Madeline Mills says people often do not have access to good quality care and adequate symptom control and how people die and the quality of life they have left is important.

Suzanne McBean, of the RCN's education forum, believes that as a Christian the time of conception and the time of death are decided by God.

An earlier poll by the RCN found 70% of nurses do not back assisted dying and it would not change its policy.

Maura Buchanan, deputy president of the Royal College of Nursing says that it is clear that the current law causes unbearable suffering for a number of terminally-ill patients who want assistance to die, and thinks it has to be faced that some people want to end their own lives.

She said many people want these issues to be considered but added that patients do not want nurses and doctors to be skilled in delivering lethal injections, but to be skilled in delivering patient care.

She says the RCN is "entirely opposed to any change in the law" and would not be altering its view after Monday's debate.

Assisted suicide describes the scenario where doctors provide the means for a patient to kill themselves, while voluntary euthanasia is the term for someone helping a patient who is too ill to administer the lethal medication.

Earlier this month a House of Lords select committee called for a parliamentary debate on legalising assisted suicide and voluntary euthanasia after they had been considering Lord Joffe's Assisted Dying for the Terminally Ill Bill. The committee was split on whether the law should be changed and ran out of time in the last parliament, but Lord Joffe has indicated that he will introduce a new bill in the next parliament.

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