In a departure from the norm, British doctors will now be required to respect the wishes of terminally ill patients and will have to permit them to refuse treatment if they so wish.
The right of the terminally ill patient to refuse treatment, resuscitation and even food and water has been controversial within the medical community and society at large for a long time now.
Many have argued that it is only humane that the terminally ill should be permitted to decide their own fate rather than doctors who have traditionally made these decisions in the past and this precedent set by the British could be significant and far-reaching.
Doctors will also be required to respect living wills, in connection with resuscitation or face a ban. They will be required to give precedence to the patient’s wishes over those of their loved ones which are often instinctively in favor of prolonging life even if for a short while.
Patient’s wishes will have precedence over the doctor’s own training and beliefs to save the patient as well. Doctors have themselves welcomed the move and have said that this will provide more clarity in difficult situations.
The idea behind this directive is that patients be treated fairly, with dignity and without prejudice, however critics have warned against the “danger of allowing a hastily drafted and ill-informed advance refusal to trump good clinical judgment.”