Assisted dying

This POSTbrief provides a brief overview of assisted dying, including ethical debate and stakeholder opinion. It examines how assisted dying functions within health services in countries where it is a legal option, focusing on jurisdictions where most data are available on outcomes: Belgium, Canada, the Netherlands, Oregon (United States), Switzerland and Victoria (Australia). It also covers evidence and expert opinion on key practical considerations that are raised in the context of assisted dying.

Assisted dying

Palliative and end of life care

Palliative and end of life care are increasingly in demand as people are living longer and with multiple long-term conditions. However, an estimated 100,000 people in the UK that could benefit from palliative care die without receiving it each year. There is substantial evidence that inequalities in access to palliative and end of life care relate to various sociodemographic factors. Experts have highlighted that access to palliative and end of life care may improve quality of life for patient and family and reduce symptom burden. This POSTnote summarises the key components of palliative and end of life care and recent changes in UK policy. It identifies inequalities and challenges to accessible provision. It also reviews evidence on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the provision of care and outlines key trends.

Palliative and end of life care

Prolonged Disorders of Consciousness

Medical advances mean that increasing numbers of people survive physical injury, stroke, periods of low oxygenation and severe brain infections. Some, however, are left with substantially reduced consciousness. This paper discusses the medical, ethical and commissioning challenges associated with the care of patients in vegetative and minimally conscious states, and explains the impact of recent legal judgments.

Prolonged Disorders of Consciousness
  • POSTnote

    Invasive non-native species

    Research suggests that the threat from invasive non-native species (INNS) is growing. Biological invasions by INNS harm native species and habitats and can have economic impacts. Biosecurity measures can be adopted to prevent the introduction and spread of INNS. This POSTnote summarises the drivers and impacts of INNS and the measures needed to meet national and international environmental targets.

  • POSTnote

    Innovation in adult social care

    The UK Government’s 2021 People at the Heart of Care white paper identified innovation as key to delivering “outstanding quality” in adult social care in England. This POSTnote gives an overview of innovation in adult social care. It provides a summary of the types of innovation in the sector and evidence on key barriers to and facilitators of innovation. It also presents lessons from the COVID-19 pandemic. It focuses on England but includes examples from all four UK nations.

  • Rapid response

    Drug Therapies for COVID-19

    Research studies involving thousands of people have allowed scientists to test which drugs are effective at treating COVID-19. Several drug therapies are now available to treat people who are in hospital with COVID-19, or to prevent infections in vulnerable people becoming more serious. This briefing explains which drugs are available, the groups of people in which they are used and how they work. It also outlines the importance of monitoring the emergence of new variants and drug resistance.

  • Rapid response

    COVID-19: Omicron, recent developments, and the likely impact of future variants on the pandemic

    The Omicron variant of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, which causes COVID-19, has been found across the world since it was first detected in early November 2021. This article describes the characteristics of the variant and its health impacts. It also discusses vaccine effectiveness against the variant and the medium and long-term outlook for the future course of the pandemic.

  • POSTnote

    Genome edited food crops

    Genome editing creates the possibility of making more precise alterations in the DNA of food crop plants than existing approaches. This POSTnote: describes genome editing technology; identifies which food crops are currently undergoing editing and why; describes the regulation and registration of genome-edited food crops; discusses issues around trade; and describes stakeholder views about the technology.

  • Resource

    COVID-19 glossary

    The most common scientific terms used in research that relates to COVID-19. This glossary will help you understand materials that describe the biology of Coronavirus and the spread of COVID-19. It can assist in the reading of research papers and help you understand language used in drug and vaccine development. It also has a comprehensive list of international and UK organisations involved in public health, their institutional acronyms and descriptions of their work.

  • POSTnote

    Preventing emerging zoonoses

    Zoonoses are diseases that can be transmitted between animals and humans. This POSTnote summarises approaches to preventing zoonoses with pandemic potential by targeting animal-environment-human interactions. It reviews current biosecurity measures in the UK and globally, notes lessons from COVID-19 and identifies future strategies.

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