British doctors must respect right to die or face ban
Saturday 22 May 2010
British doctors face being banned from practising if they fail to respect the wishes of terminally ill patients who want to die by refusing treatment, a newspaper reported Thursday.
Citing new guidelines from doctors' regulator the General Medical Council, the Daily Telegraph said doctors must let dying patients refuse food and water if they do not wish to have treatment to prolong their life.
They must also respect so-called "living wills" where patients have set out in advance that they do not want to be resuscitated.
The guidance from the regulator states that decisions about treatments given to terminally ill patients "must start with a presumption in favour of prolonging life.
"This presumption will normally require you to take all reasonable steps to prolong a patient's life.
"However, there is no absolute obligation to prolong life irrespective of the consequences for the patient, and irrespective of the patient's view, if they are known or can be found out."
Doctors who breach the guidelines would be forced to attend a fitness to practice hearing before the medical council, which registers doctors in Britain, and could be struck off if the case against them were proved.
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