A Cautious Welcome for the End of Life Patient Charter

A new End of Life Patient Charter has been produced by the Royal College of General Practitioners and the Royal College of Nursing. It helpfully starts with a quotation from Dame Cicely Saunders who pioneered the good care of the dying and incurable in hospices.

The ProLife Alliance welcomes the promise that GPs and nurses will protect patients’ “independence, dignity and sense of personal control”, do their utmost to make patients’ remaining days comfortable, and see that they get “all the specialist care and emotional and spiritual support” needed.

Patients are to be encouraged to put their wishes in writing, a provision which will certainly be used by euthanasia campaigners to push them towards “living wills”, including “do not resuscitate” directions, which present several dangers. The recent case of Richard Rudd shows that no one can be sure how he or she will feel in the future. Neither can anyone allow for all possible eventualities or the advance of medical science. And in general the idea that some patients would be better off dead is the cornerstone of euthanasia.

Patients are invited to comment on the Charter and offer suggestions for improving it. The ProLife Alliance recommends a clear statement that no one’s life is futile and unworthy of protection, and that a request for help in committing suicide, or an attempt, should be regarded as an urgent call for better care, physically, mentally or spiritually.