22 May 2002

Meeting in Parliament asks General Medical Council to Reconsider

The General Medical Council (GMC) document "Withholding and Withdrawing Life-Prolonging Treatment:Good Practice in Decision Making" was discussed at a meeting today chaired by Dr Brian Iddon. MP for Bolton East.

The meeting was told that the document in its present form, is open to contradictory interpretations. The meeting was reminded that intentional killing is contrary to UK law and medical ethics. In addition, the premis that so called "artificial hydration and nutrition" can be withheld if judged non benificial was challenged. "A slow death by dehydration is never acceptable, nor could it ever be considered desirable or benificial", said Brian Iddon.

The meeting moved the following resolution: "It is inappropriate for the General Medical Council or other bodies to seek to resolve this issue
before Parliamentary debate".

Dr Anthony Cole of the Medical Ethics Alliance, one of the speakers at the meeting, was concerned that junior doctors, who could not in conscience
agree to the withdrawal or withholding of food and fluid, should not have to take responsibility for finding another doctor to do what they could not do themselves. The responsibility of staff changes must rest with the senior doctor concerned.

Dr Jacqueline Laing, who also spoke at the meeting, said, "Advance directives, made long in advance and without knowledge of the circumstances that arose, could prevent a doctor from giving good or necessary treatment. If the patient lived, their condition could be significantly worse, or their death more difficult than it should be."

Dr Laing also pointed out that both suicide and homicide may result from the omission of care and nutrition.

Brian Iddon called for the debate to be widened to Parliament and the general public rather than remain only in the realms of lawyers and doctors.
Dr Iddon said, "This subject merits serious political discussion." He also emphasised that lives are there to be preserved and not to be taken away by the operation of futile care policies within the NHS.

There is to be an Adjournment Debate in Parliament on 22 May on "Futile Care Policies and Euthanasia," begining at 9.30 a.m. in Westminster Hall

Medical Ethics Alliance