Liverpool Care Pathway: Relatives 'must be informed'

Elderly man's hands There will be a 12-week consultation on the proposed changes to the NHS constitution

Related Stories

Relatives of terminally-ill patients would have to be consulted before a decision to withdraw food or water is taken, under new government proposals.

It comes after some patients were placed on the Liverpool Care Pathway - designed to relieve suffering - without their relatives' knowledge.

The government wants to ensure families are told of life and death decisions.

The instruction will be included in a number of proposed changes to the NHS Constitution to be unveiled on Monday.

The Liverpool Care Pathway was developed at the Royal Liverpool University Hospital and the city's Marie Curie hospice to relieve suffering in dying patients, setting out principles for their treatment in their final days and hours.

Supporters say it can make the end of a patient's life as comfortable as possible and the method is also widely backed by doctors and many health charities.

However, critics argue it can be inhumane.

The government has now said that the rules needed to be stricter, meaning relatives of patients are always consulted before the technique is applied.

'New right'

A Department of Health (DoH) spokesman said the proposed changes would set out a "new right" under the NHS Constitution, which was established by the Health Act 2009, but he stopped short of describing the move as a "legal requirement".

However, the spokesman added: "Anybody providing NHS services is required by law to take account of it [the NHS constitution] in their decisions and actions."

Some reports suggested health trusts that failed to involve patients and families in decisions could be sued, while doctors could face being struck off.

The DoH spokesman said it was unlikely policy had been developed on this as the proposal was still at an early stage.

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt will launch a 12-week consultation on the proposed changes to the constitution - the formal statement of patients' rights - on Monday.

Health minister Norman Lamb said this week that it was "completely wrong" for terminally-ill patients to be put on a "pathway" to death without relatives being consulted.

Mr Lamb has called a meeting of doctors and patients to discuss worries about the pathway.

Meanwhile, Conservative peer Baroness Knight called for an inquiry into claims some people might have survived had they not received this treatment.


More on This Story

Related Stories

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites


This entry is now closed for comments

Jump to comments pagination
  • rate this

    Comment number 14.

    Essexbelle may want people put out of their "misery" but the problem is that this Liverpool Pathway thing has been done without consulting anyone, patients or relatives. Smacks a bit of Dr.Goebbels and the NHS is all about saving money at the patient end but wasting it like hell at the bureaucracy end.

  • rate this

    Comment number 13.

    Never ceases to amaze me that if a family pet is terminally ill, they are treated "humanely" but if you are a human you are denied any rights to decide for yourself or a relative to decide for you and no-one can ever agree.

  • rate this

    Comment number 12.

    To die at home alongside your family has to be the way to go, rather than to be just another name on a list, being prodded and poked by emotionally detatched doctors and nurses who themselves are being pressurised by the bed manager looking for a spare bed.

  • rate this

    Comment number 11.

    This happened in 2009 to my wife's aunt. The hospital actually used the phrase "path to the end of life".
    I think you mean end of life care pathway, or what is more known as as the Liverpool Care Pathway. Follow the link below to be more fully informed of this process . . .

  • rate this

    Comment number 10.

    A sudden or unexpected death is referred to the police and coroner. LCP deaths are not. The suspicion is that LCP is a convenient corner-cutting device in a service being made to meet targets and reduce costs.

  • rate this

    Comment number 9.

    Any sort of method or intention of ending any one's life, in any conditions, is pure simple murder. I hate when people and the Government try to invent new terms and absurd explanations to compensate the guilt and justify this attitude.

  • rate this

    Comment number 8.

    This happened in 2009 to my wife's aunt. The hospital actually used the phrase "path to the end of life". She was terminally ill and suffering immensely so we really need to be very careful if we heap more criticism on the medical profession when quite frankly its not warranted.

  • rate this

    Comment number 7.

    It takes my breath away that this and assisted death (in scotland) are talked about. As a society we seem to find it easy to talk about taking life from our loved ones. However, the very thought of taking the lives of the most horible indidvduals like terorists and paedofiles is not on the agenda. Bring back hanging long before we legislate to take the lives of our loved ones.

  • rate this

    Comment number 6.

    I thought it was the other way around...
    The problem is that the relatives (and the person him/herself) want to pull the plug and the law doesn't allow it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 5.

    Arthur... this is not a chestnut. It is a decision on the need to withdraw treatment and care from a person in order to shorten their life, whether they want it or not. If this happened at home, the relatives would be charged with neglect, and it the patient died would face a manslaughter charge. Why have hospitels got away with it for so long?

  • rate this

    Comment number 4.

    I know that feeding tubes etc can be uncomfortable but acute thirst is a lot more so, so this technique is only appropriate for people who are really on the point of death, and who will die within a matter of hours before they become seriously thirsty. It should never be used to hasten death - if you're going to set out to kill somebody, do it humanely, not by causing them to die of thirst.

  • rate this

    Comment number 3.

    This goes on and on and gets nowhere because there is no person in parliament who has the courage to ask for a vote for voluntary euthanasia. If a person is terminally ill, or very incapacitated why can they not put an end to their misery? We do for animals - hopefully - so why should humans have to suffer?

  • rate this

    Comment number 2.

    Let's go the whole hog and leave all the treatments to a patients family and cut the medical experts out of the loop? Why should a hopeless case have loads more treatment without a hope of recovery taking up room and skills that could actually be used to save somebody?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1.

    not this old chestnut again


Page 23 of 23


More Health stories



Try our new site and tell us what you think. Learn more
Take me there

Copyright © 2015 BBC. The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.