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End of life care 'transformed'

The controversial method of withholding food and drink from terminally ill patients so they die quicker has "transformed" end of life care, according to an article in a leading medical journal.

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Withholding food and drink can offer a 'good death'

Dr Des Spence has said the method of withholding food and drink from terminally ill patients can offer a "good death" when used properly.

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

In recent years care has improved.

The Liverpool care pathway and committed district nursing teams are transforming care. We talk about death in an open way and decide where patients die.

Used properly with senior supervision, the pathway offers structure to a peaceful, pain-free, dignified death at home - a good death.

The 'death lists' exist to tackle a taboo: they facilitate discussion about death with patients and families.

But the newspapers are right: this pathway must be used with full explanation and the consent of all involved. If it has not been used in this way, then a review is welcome if only to reassure the public.

Lastly, the media should reflect on this: there were no good old days in end of life care, and so we need the Liverpool care pathway.

– Dr Spence, writing in the British Medical Journal (BMJ)

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