Campaigners outside Westminster - Assisted Dying

We are involved in undertaking various research projects into assisted dying

Assisted Dying

As a research group, we are involved in undertaking various research projects into assisted dying.

Assisted dying is the umbrella term for a process whereby an individual can lawfully receive medically administered or self-administered medication from a healthcare provider to end their life at their own competent and voluntary request. This is also commonly known as euthanasia, assisted suicide, or medical aid in dying, depending on where you live in the world, or your ethical stance.

British ‘Suicide Tourists’

Dr Naomi Richards has undertaken ethnographic research into British ‘suicide tourists’ who travel to Switzerland for help to die with a Swiss right-to-die organisation, such as Dignitas. This research has been written up in two open access journal articles:

Naomi Richards (2017) Assisted Suicide as a Remedy for Suffering? The End-of-Life Preferences of British “Suicide Tourists”, Medical Anthropology, 36:4, 348-362

Naomi Richards & Rebecca Rotter (2013) Desperately Seeking Certainty? The Case of Asylum Applicants and People Planning an Assisted Suicide in Switzerland. Sociological Research Online18(4), 250–265. 

British ‘Right-to-Die’ Activism

Dr Richards has also undertaken research into British ‘right-to-die’ activism, written up in an open access journal article memorably titled: ‘The Fight-to-Die’

Naomi Richards (2012) The Fight-to-Die: Older People and Death Activism. International Journal of Ageing and Later Life, 7(1): 7 32

As well as a fully illustrated journal article about some of the most celebrated British right-to-die cases:

Naomi Richards (2014) The Death of Right-to-Die Campaigners. Anthropology Today

The Relationship Between Palliative Care and Assisted Dying

As part of our Wellcome funded ‘Global Interventions at the End of Life’, in 2018-19 we conducted a study into the relationship between palliative care and assisted dying in three jurisdictions where assisted dying is lawful: Oregon (US), Quebec (Canada) and Flanders (Belgium). In this study we found that there is a pressing need for more research on the involvement of palliative care in the developing practices of assisted dying, across a growing number of jurisdictions. We published an open access scoping review of the literature available here:

Sheri Mila Gerson, Gitte H. Koksvik, Naomi Richards, Lars Johan Materstvedt and David Clark. 2020. The Relationship of Palliative Care With Assisted Dying Where Assisted Dying is Lawful: A Systematic Scoping Review of the Literature, Journal of Pain and Symptom Management.

We also have other articles under review from the empirical component of the study.

What is the Cultural Value of Dying in an Era of Assisted Dying?

In 2019, Dr Marian Krawczyk and Dr Naomi Richards co-authored a journal article examining different cultural scripts which give meaning to dying in Western societies, and how these might be influenced by the advent of lawful assisted dying. We made the theoretical argument that access to these different cultural scripts is already limited because of the widespread reluctance to recognise and name ‘dying’, and the challenges of doing so. The various cultural scripts we identify in our article are therefore negated not by the increase in assisted dying, but rather by a combination of medical advances and institutional orthodoxies which limit opportunity for people to experience themselves, or others, as ‘dying’.

This article can be found here:

Naomi Richards and Marian Krawczyk, 2019. What is the cultural value of dying in an era of assisted dying? Medical Humanities. Online first