General anaesthesia is widely used for surgery and diagnostic interventions, to ensure the patient is completely unconscious. But it is not used generally for dying patients, to whom painkilling medications (analgesia) are more commonly given. But, according to the paper, this may not be enough, leading to the use of continuous deep sedation, also known as palliative or terminal sedation.
Professor Julian Savulescu, Oxford’s Uehiro Chair of Practical Ethics and co-author, maintains, ‘For some patients these common interventions are not enough. Other patients may express a clear desire to be completely unconscious as they die.’
He adds, ‘Some dying patients just want to sleep. Patients have a right to be unconscious if they are dying. We have the medical means to provide this and we should.’