Doctors support end-of-life regime

Nine in 10 doctors claim they would undergo a controversial end-of-life regime, which can involve withholding food and drink, if they were terminally ill.

Ninety per cent of doctors said they would want to be placed on the Liverpool Care Pathway (LCP) if they were nearing death.

The LCP - which recommends that in some circumstances doctors withdraw treatment, food and water from sedated patients in their final days - has come under intense scrutiny recently.

Reports suggest doctors are establishing "death lists" of patients to be put on the pathway. Articles also claim hospitals might be employing the method to cut costs and save bed spaces.

But medics have argued that the pathway has "transformed" end-of-life care, saying it can offer peaceful, pain-free deaths when used properly.

The latest survey, conducted on 563 doctors by the British Medical Journal (BMJ) and Channel 4's Dispatches programme, found that 98% of medics did not think that pressure on beds or other resources had influenced decisions to use the pathway.

But three-quarters of the clinicians questioned did claim that negative press coverage of the regime had led to it being used less frequently.

Doctors told the BMJ that criticism and apprehension towards the LCP was "putting end of life care back about 20 years". An overwhelming majority of those questioned said that the method, when used properly, allowed patients to die with dignity, with only two respondents disagreeing.

The pathway was introduced with the aim of helping doctors and nurses provide quality care for patients during their final hours and days of life. But following criticism of the regime, health officials recently commissioned a review into the use of the LCP at hospitals and care homes.

The review, chaired by crossbench peer Baroness Julia Neuberger, will hear evidence from patients, families and health professionals before reporting to ministers and the NHS Commissioning Board this summer.