‘Pathway’ for end of life care praised

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The controversial method of withholding food and drink from terminally ill patients so they die quicker has “transformed” end of life care, according to an article in a leading medical journal.

The Liverpool care pathway, which recommends that in some circumstances doctors withdraw treatment, food and water from sedated patients in their final days, means that they can have a “peaceful, pain-free, dignified death” at home, said Glasgow-based general practitioner Dr Des Spence.

The method has come under close scrutiny recently. Reports suggest that doctors are establishing “death lists” of patients to put on the pathway.

Articles also claim that hospitals may be employing the method to cut costs and save on bed spaces.

But writing in the British Medical Journal (BMJ), Dr Spence said: “Used properly with senior supervision, the pathway offers structure to a peaceful, pain-free, dignified death at home – a good death.

“But... this pathway must be used with full explanation and the consent of all involved.”