About this event

  • Date and time Thu 17 Mar 2022 from 12:30pm to 3:30pm
  • Location Online

In recent months, proposed bills to legalise assisted dying have been debated in Scotland, Jersey and the House of Lords. 

Such bills raise the question of the practical implications of assisted dying for healthcare professionals, and how safeguards would be implemented for both patients and their clinicians. 

This RSM event aims to shift the narrative surrounding assisted dying away from the ethical debate and fundamental moral questions to an understanding of how assisted dying functions within a health service, recognising the need to support the medical profession in changing times.  

Do you have a question for our panelists? If so, please submit your questions here using the hashtag #AssistedDying and they will be answered during the webinar. The passcode is: ne0m8p.

Learning objectives for this webinar:

  • Explore how medical organisations can facilitate impartial and constructive engagement with the subject of assisted dying 
  • Understand how assisted dying has been adopted and is delivered internationally, and the practical considerations for physicians who are part of those processes  
  • Acknowledge the considerations and changes necessary for UK health systems and staff to facilitate any changes in legislation  
  • Enable delegates to hear from and ask questions of physicians involved in assisted dying internationally and from leading voices within the space 

Drawing on international experience from countries where assisted dying is a legal option, including Canada, Switzerland and the Netherlands, the conference will focus on the real-world aspects of assisted dying. Exploring how it works in other countries, the event will inform and support healthcare professionals, allowing them to gain an understanding of the role assisted dying may play within a health service. 

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Key speakers

Nancy Preston

Professor Nancy Preston

Professor of Supportive and Palliative Care, International Observatory on End of Life Care, Lancaster University

Speaker's biography

Professor Nancy Preston is the Co-Director of the International Observatory on End of Life Care at Lancaster University. She completed her degree in Nursing at King’s College, London. She completed her PhD at the Institute of Cancer Research, London. Her research focuses on palliative care and how best to integrate palliative care into general healthcare systems. She has a strong interest in how people make decisions about their future care including advance care planning and experiences around assisted dying.

Professor Preston has been involved in four European projects including two projects on advance care planning for people with advanced dementia and a second on the use of palliative sedation. Her research about assisted dying has been conducted in the US, the Netherlands, Switzerland, and the UK. Her
main focus is on the experience of healthcare professionals and the families who support people who chose to have an assisted death, rather than the ethics of the decision.

Gillian Leng at awards

Professor Gillian Leng

Former Chief Executive, National Institute for Health and Care Excellence, Chair, Guidelines International Network, Visiting Professor, King's College London

Speaker's biography

Gillian Leng has had a long career in academia and public service, supporting quality improvement through the use of evidence-based guidelines and policy. As a junior doctor, she was struck by variations in clinical practice and this developed into a passion for using evidence to improve care.  Her career has spanned research, evidence synthesis, management, healthcare, and the life sciences, with a more recent interest in choice at the end of life. 

She was an editor of the Cochrane Collaboration, is a trustee and former chair of the Guidelines International Network and is a visiting professor at King’s College London and an affiliate professor at the National University of Singapore. She spent over 20 years in senior roles at the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence, becoming only its second Chief Executive. She published a new 5-year strategy for the organisation aiming to put NICE at the forefront of evaluating new medicines, devices and diagnostics, and delivering dynamic, living guidelines. 

Sandy Buchman

Dr Sandy Buchman

Chair in Palliative Care, North York General Hospital, former President, Canadian Medical Association

Speaker's biography

Dr Sandy Buchman is a palliative care physician and an Associate Professor in the Department of Family and Community Medicine, Division of Palliative Care at the University of Toronto and McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario. He is the Freeman Family Chair in Palliative Care and Medical Director of The Freeman Centre for the Advancement of Palliative Care at North York General Hospital in Toronto. From 2019-2020, he served as President of the Canadian Medical Association and is also a past president of the College of Family Physicians of Canada and the Ontario College of Family Physicians. From 2005-2019, he provided home-based palliative and end-of-life care with the Sinai Health System’s Temmy Latner Centre for Palliative Care and with the Palliative Care and Education for the Homeless (PEACH) Program of Inner City Health Associates in Toronto.

Sandy is a founder and medical lead of a new residential hospice currently being built in the Toronto area, as well as a founder of MAIDHouse, an independent facility for the provision of medical assistance in dying (MAID) in Toronto. He is the 2020 recipient of the W. Victor Johnston Award by the College of Family Physicians of Canada. This award recognizes a renowned Canadian or international family medicine leader for continuous and enduring contributions to the specialty of family medicine in Canada or abroad.

raanan gillon

Professor Raanan Gillon

Chair, Emeritus Professor of Medical Ethics, Imperial College London 

Speaker's biography

Raanan Gillon is a hybrid of retired NHS GP and Philosopher/ Medical Ethicist. He is Emeritus Professor of Medical Ethics at Imperial College London where he still does a little teaching, mostly tutoring medical students and on the annual Imperial College one-week intensive course in medical ethics which he started in 1983. He is past Chairman and now Honorary President of the Institute of Medical Ethics. He was Editor of the Journal of Medical Ethics for 20 years and a part-time NHS GP for 28 years.

He has published extensively on medical ethics and his elderly book 'Philosophical Medical Ethics' is in its 13th print.
In 1999 he was a recipient of the American Hastings Center Beecher award for contributions to ethics and the life sciences. He is an enthusiastic proponent of 'the four principles approach' for both medical ethics and for ethics in general. His career-long association with the BMA, of which he was President for 2019-20, included long service on its Medical Ethics Committee, its International Committee and as one of its representatives at the World Medical Association and at the Standing Committee of European Doctors.


View the programme 17 March 2022

Welcome and introduction

Professor Roger Kirby, President, Royal Society of Medicine

Session one: The practicalities of assisted dying internationally

Chair: Professor Sir Simon Wessely, Regius Professor of Psychiatry, Institute of Psychiatry, King’s College London, Past President, Royal Society of Medicine

Panel discussion

Dr Claudia Gamondi, Head, Palliative and Supportive Care Service (Switzerland)

Emeritus Professor Margaret O’Connor, Emeritus Professor of Nursing, Monash University, Melbourne (Australia)

Professor Hans van Delden, Professor of Medical Ethics, University Medical Center Utrecht (Netherlands) 

Dr Sandy Buchman, Chair, Palliative Care, North York General Hospital, Former President, Canadian Medical Association (Canada)


Session two: Research into the delivery of assisted dying

Interviewer: Mr Richard Hurley, Features and Debates Editor, The British Medical Journal


Professor Nancy Preston, Professor of Supportive and Palliative Care, International Observatory on End of Life Care, Lancaster University


Session three: What would this mean for the UK? Where now for health services and assisted dying?

Chair, Professor Raanan Gillon, Emeritus Professor of Medical Ethics, Imperial College London

Panel discussion

Professor Katherine Sleeman, Laing Galazka Chair in Palliative Care, King’s College London, Honorary Consultant in Palliative Medicine, King’s College Hospital NHS Trust

Professor Gillian Leng, Former Chief Executive Officer, National Institute for Health and Care Excellence, Professor of Health Policy

Dr Jacky Davis, Consultant Radiologist, Whittington Hospital, Chair, Healthcare Professionals for Assisted Dying

Professor Rob George, Consultant Palliative Care, Guy’s and St Thomas’ Foundation Trust

Closing remarks

Professor Roger Kirby



Disclaimer: All views expressed in this webinar are of the speakers themselves and not of the RSM nor the speaker's organisations.

Special rates for difficult times

The RSM wishes to offer healthcare professionals continued learning opportunities during the coronavirus pandemic. The RSM’s weekly COVID-19 Series webinars remain free of charge, while there will be small charges to register for other online education. These fees will enable the RSM to continue its programme of activities and will apply during the course of the pandemic.

This webinar will be recorded and stored by the Royal Society of Medicine and may be distributed in future on various internet channels.

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