Health Watchdog: 'Dying Patients Should Be Treated As Individuals'

Public Law Experts Welcome New Guidelines On End-of-life Care

16.12.2015

Kate Rawlings, Press Officer | 0114 274 4238

Public law specialists have welcomed new guidelines from health watchdog, NICE, which state that care for dying patients must be tailored to the needs of the individual, rather than making decisions based on a "tick-box approach”.

The National Institute for Health Care and Excellent (NICE) produced the new guidance to address the problems of the previous system used to assess the needs of the dying, the Liverpool Care Pathway (LPC).

The new recommendations suggest that patients must be treated with respect and compassion, and that doctors should avoid making "snap decisions" about whether someone was dying.

The LCP was introduced in the late 1990s, to ensure that people had a dignified and comfortable death.

It involved checklists for staff to consider whether invasive procedures, drips and drugs should be withdrawn from people in the late stages of life.

A government-commissioned review led to the LCP being phased out last year after serious concerns that it was being misused and had created a "tick-box" culture surfaced.

The latest and wide-ranging guidelines cover many of the same key principles as the LCP but NICE have called for a stronger focus on individual plans for each patient, saying their wishes and those of their family must be central.

Partner and Head of public law at Irwin Mitchell, Yogi Amin, welcomed the new guidelines and said it was step forward in terms of person centred patient care.

Expert Opinion
When the LPC was being used we saw instances of people being put on the pathway without their consent and without proper consultation, and in some cases it was reported that deaths were hastened in people who were not dying imminently.

We even saw some reports that the incorrect use of the LCP had left some patients without food and water.

It goes against our basic right to life that a black and white ‘tick box’ system should determine how we die, so these new guidelines are a positive step forward.

The end stages of life can be very complex, both medically and emotionally. Sometimes people want to have extra medical intervention to allow them more time to say goodbye to loved ones or get their affairs in order.

In other circumstances patients may want to simply allow nature to take its course and avoid additional medical care. Patients would like to have a choice in the pain control given to them. Every patient should have a right to have their care tailored to meet their individual needs.

These new guidelines also highlight the importance of putting measures such as ‘living-wills’ in place where necessary, so a patient and outline and clearly define their wishes for how they would like to die while they are still physically and mentally able to do so.
Yogi Amin, Partner