Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 24 July 2014

Caring for the terminally ill: your views sought by medical council

The General Medical Council is today asking people across Northern Ireland for their views on new draft guidelines for the care of terminally ill patients.

The call comes as the GMC, which regulates more than 6,000 doctors in Northern Ireland, hosts two events in Northern Ireland today to discuss issues arising out of the guidelines for doctors treating end-of-life patients.

The GMC wants as many people as possible in Northern Ireland to have a say on end of life treatment and care.

Issues include whether the guidance strikes a reasonable balance between respecting patients’ wishes and doctors exercising their clinical judgment, and how far should the GMC guidance go in encouraging doctors to consider possible organ donation.

The GMC is also trying to gauge whether it should say more about care after death, including respect for faith and cultural issues and bereavement support, and whether people agree with the guidance on when doctors should raise the issue of CPR.

It will also look at whether there are there particular concerns about standards of end of life care amongst particular groups — for example, adults with learning disabilities.

The GMC is also working locally with Age Sector Platform and Disability Action’s Centre on Human Rights for People with Disabilities to engage directly with older people and people with disabilities from across Ulster.

They will be asked for their views on matters, such as how, if a patient cannot speak or decide for themselves, they and their carers can be supported in deciding what treatments they should or should not have.

Jane O’Brien, the GMC’s Assistant Director of Standards and Fitness to Practise, said: “We want to encourage everyone to give the GMC their views on this difficult subject which most of us will have to face at some point in our lives, whether as a patient, carer or health professional.

“We are holding meetings across the UK to ensure that everyone has a chance to have their say on the guidance.

“Every day, patients and carers all over Northern Ireland face making difficult decisions with their doctors about end of life care. Our guidance supports doctors by setting out the ethical and legal principles that should underpin practice in this area.”

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