There are some 350,000 desperately ill people in Britain today whose conditions are beyond the help of further medical treatment, yet the palliative care needed to bring relief and prevent unnecessary suffering is available to less than half of them. Surely what is required is a scheme to bring the end-of-life care associated with hospices into Britain's hospitals? There is one. It is called the Liverpool Care Pathway – and it is highly controversial.
Critics describe the LCP as an excuse to save money by withdrawing medicine from the dying, or as back-door euthanasia. There have indeed been problems – when patients and relatives have not been informed of its use, for example – and an inquiry has, rightly, been set up. But the many benefits of the LCP must not be overlooked. It is a set of procedures designed to make a dying patient comfortable. As such, it is of great value.