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Doctors told to “respect” patients’ end-of-life wishes

20 May 2010

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Terminally ill patients should have a larger role in deciding in their end-of-life treatment, new guidance for doctors has claimed.

While medics would still have the final decision and power to withdraw drugs with no clinical benefit, the General Medical Council (GMC) said due attention should be paid to patients’ wishes.

People who want to continue receiving food and fluids until the moment they die should normally be given them in cases where the benefits and harms carry a similar weight, the guidance says.

Equally, those who wish to die quickly can ask ahead of time for food and fluids to be withdrawn.

Requests concerning resuscitation should also be taken into account when making treatment decisions.

“When the benefits, burdens and risks are finely balanced, the patient’s request will usually be the deciding factor,” the document says.

The GMC is hopeful the advice will encourage doctors to discuss patient end-of-life plans well ahead of time, particularly with those unlikley to live beyond another year.

Copyright © Press Association 2010

General Medical Council