Page last updated at 23:15 GMT, Sunday, 17 May 2009 00:15 UK

Opinions sought on dying patients

Ambulance staff are among those being consulted

Medical professionals and carers in the Highlands have been asked for their views on how doctors deal with requests from patients who want to die.

The General Medical Council's (GMC) visit to Inverness is part of a roadshow gathering views on its new draft guidelines.

It includes advice on caring for people who wish to die, or refuse treatment.

The guidance covers treatment, care and good practice in dealing with patients at the end of their lives.

GPs, nurses, ambulance staff and patient representatives were meeting at the Highland Hospice, which offers care to adults with incurable diseases.

It provides a 10 bed in-patient unit in Inverness and a day hospice on the same site.

Every day, patients and carers all over Scotland face making difficult decisions
Jane O'Brien

The new guidance is expected to be issued to doctors - including 864 registered in the Highlands and Islands - next year.

Jane O'Brien, GMC assistant director of standards and fitness to practise, said the consultation was being carried out across the UK.

She said: "We want to encourage everyone to give the GMC their views on this difficult subject which most of us will have to face at some point in our lives, whether as a patient, carer or health professional.

"Every day, patients and carers all over Scotland face making difficult decisions with their doctors about end of life care.

"Our guidance supports doctors by setting out the ethical and legal principles that should underpin practice in this area and lets patients know what they can expect from their doctor."

Patients who wish to die and proposals to legalise assisted suicide in Scotland are already the subject of a major debate.

Independent MSP Margo MacDonald hopes to introduce an assisted dying bill later this year.

The Lothian MSP's End Of Life Choices (Scotland) Bill would allow people whose lives become intolerable through a progressive degenerative condition, a trauma or terminal illness to seek a doctor's help in dying.

In April, the Scottish Council on Human Bioethics said the planned bill risked turning disabled and terminally ill people into second class citizens.

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