Page last updated at 04:33 GMT, Thursday, 3 September 2009 05:33 UK

'Crisis' over terminally-ill care

End of life care
End of life care is getting extra money

Official guidelines are causing a crisis in care of the terminally ill and growing anger among patients' families, medical experts say.

The advice allows food and fluids to be withdrawn from patients, who are then continuously sedated, if they are judged to be close to death.

In a letter to the Daily Telegraph the six doctors and campaigners criticise a "tick-box approach" to care.

The government says the guidance helps deliver high quality care for people.

Among the signatories on the letter are PH Millard, Emeritus Professor of Geriatrics at the University of London and Dr Anthony Cole, chairman of the Medical Ethics Committee.


Dr Peter Hargreaves, a consultant in palliative medicine, Dr David Hill, fellow of the Faculty of Anaesthetists of the Royal College of Surgeons, Dr Elizabeth Negus, a lecturer at Barking University, and Dowager Lady Salisbury, chairman of Choose Life, were the other signatories.

Their letter says the new treatment pattern of palliative care, based on experience at a Liverpool hospice is being rolled out into hospitals and nursing homes.

"If you tick all the right boxes in the Liverpool Care Pathway, the inevitable outcome of the consequent treatment is death," they write.

"As a result, a nationwide wave of discontent is building up, as family and friends witness the denial of fluids and food to patients."

A Department of Health spokesman said they are investing £286 million over the two years to help improve end of life care.

He added: "The Liverpool Care Pathway is an established and recommended tool that provides clinicians with an evidence-based framework to help delivery of high quality care for people at the end of their lives.

"It has been recommended in the Supportive and Palliative Care Guidance issued by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence."

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