Liverpool care pathway has transformed end of life care, argues doctor

October 31, 2012

His views follow media criticism of the pathway that is designed to help doctors and nurses provide quality care for dying patients. Newspaper reports say doctors are establishing "death lists" of patients to put on the pathway and have accused hospitals of using it to kill terminally ill patients.

But Dr Des Spence, a general practitioner in Glasgow argues that there is another side to the story.

He describes how, 25 years ago, doctors received no training in end of life care. "In hospitals far from their loved ones, patients were left screaming in pain in the dark and behind unmarked curtains were mass undignified and peace-less deaths," he writes.

"Patients were admitted to hospital without their consent," he adds. "Care was disorganised and poor."

But in recent years, he has seen care transformed by the pathway. Used properly with senior supervision, he says it "offers structure to a peaceful, pain-free, dignified death at home: a good death." The "death lists" exist to tackle a taboo, he adds – they facilitate discussion about death with patients and families.

The newspapers are right to insist that this pathway is used with full explanation and the consent of all involved, he says, but argues that "there were no good old days in end of life care and so we need to Liverpool care pathway."

In an accompanying article, Dr Margaret McCartney reviews the recent Daily Mail coverage of the pathway and describes "the onslaught of scaremongering publicity" as potentially harmful.

"Criticising current procedures and practices can be useful, and newspapers should be free to do this," she says. "But doing so in a way that scaremongers and alleges that doctors are parties to "killings" is reprehensible and unfair to a highly vulnerable group of people and their families."

Explore further: Deaths plague even top hospitals

Related Stories

Deaths plague even top hospitals

August 8, 2011

More than 120 hospitals given top marks by patients for providing excellent care also have a darker distinction: high death rates for heart attack, heart failure or pneumonia, a USA Today analysis of new Medicare data ...

Recommended for you

Big Data can save lives, says leading cancer expert

May 16, 2016

The sharing of genetic information from millions of cancer patients around the world could be key to revolutionising cancer prevention and care, according to a leading cancer expert from Queen's University Belfast.

New soap to ward off malaria carrying mosquitoes

May 13, 2016

(Medical Xpress)—Gérard Niyondiko along with colleagues Frank Langevin and Lisa Barutel has posted a project on the crowd source funding site ulule for a product called Faso Soap. They claim the soap can cut in half the ...

Smartphones uncover how the world sleeps

May 6, 2016

A pioneering study of worldwide sleep patterns combines math modeling, mobile apps and big data to parse the roles society and biology each play in setting sleep schedules.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.