Patients’ families ‘in the dark’ on end-of-life care

Relatives are not being told when patients are put on an end-of-life scheme which critics say can cause premature death, according to a new survey.

The Liverpool Care Pathway (LCP) can involve sedation and removal of fluids and food from a patient who is deemed to be dying according to a set of criteria.

Doctors have warned that the approach can mask signs of improvement.

Now a nationwide audit has revealed that in 2008-09 relatives were only told that patients had entered “the dying phase” in 76 per cent of cases.

Relatives were told about the plan of care for their loved ones in just 72 per cent of cases, according to the survey.

The audit was carried out by the Marie Curie Palliative Care Institute in Liverpool and the Royal College of Physicians (RCP).

Jonathan Potter, Director of Clinical Standards at the RCP said: “Much improvement is required within busy hospital schedules for communication with and support for relatives.

“If we can get this right, it would make a huge difference to patients and their families.”

Last week, a woman whose father suffered a stroke urged doctors not to let him die on the controversial end-of-life scheme.

Rosemary Munkenbeck’s 95-year-old father, Eric Troake, is currently in Frimley Park Hospital, where she says doctors have “written him off”.

“I just want him protected,” she said.

“He’s looking at us and talking to us. He’s not suffering from a terminal illness, he just had a stroke.”

A group of doctors warned earlier this month that the LCP is a “tick-box approach to the management of death” which “is causing a national crisis in care”.

“As a result, a nationwide wave of discontent is building up, as family and friends witness the denial of fluids and food to patients”, they wrote.

“Syringe drivers are being used to give continuous terminal sedation, without regard to the fact that the diagnosis could be wrong.”

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