News: GMC launches new guidance on end of life treatment and care

The GMC has launched its new guidance Treatment and care towards the end of life: good practice in decision making. It is also available in pdf format. The guidance comes into effect on 1 July 2010 and replaces the booklet Withholding and withdrawing life-prolonging treatments: Good practice in decision-making (2002).

The GMC writes: “The key purpose of the guidance is to help doctors navigate the complex issues often raised in such a complicated and sensitive area of health care. To ensure the delivery of good medical practice across the UK, it is important all doctors familiarise themselves with the guidance. It may also prove useful for other health care professionals, patients and carers.

Equality, dignity and respect for the individual are key themes in the guidance and it emphasises that improving communication between doctors, patients, family and carers and the healthcare team is vital to providing good care towards the end of life. Important additions to the new guidance include:

  • Advice on advance care planning and responding to requests for treatment
  • Handling decisions involving neonatal and infant care
  • Approaching discussions about organ and tissue donation
  • Doctors’ responsibilities to the patient after death
  • Making decisions on clinically assisted nutrition and hydration

The guidance is the outcome of a two-year development period which included consultation with a wide range of individuals and organisations with an invested interest in end of life care including doctors, charities, medical organisations, major world faiths, patients with life limiting or terminal illness and their families and carers.  This input has helped shape the advice we have published.”

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