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'Death pathway' consultation plans
Families are to get a legal right to be consulted before patients are put on the "death pathway", it has been revealed.
Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt will announce the new obligation on doctors next week as part of a raft of changes to the NHS constitution.
The move follows the emergence of cases where patients were placed on the Liverpool Care Pathway - which involves withdrawal of fluids and food - without relatives' knowledge.
Under the reforms, being put out for consultation on Monday, health trusts that fail to involve patients and families in decisions could be sued while doctors who ignore their wishes face being struck off.
Mr Hunt told the Daily Mail: "I want our country to be the best in Europe to grow old.
"End-of-life care decisions affect older, and more vulnerable, people. These patients and their families have a basic right to be involved in discussions and decisions affecting their end-of-life care.
"This new consultation will help to raise awareness of these rights and ensure that there are tough consequences in any cases where standards fall short.
"The NHS is one of this country's greatest achievements. At the same time as we are protecting its budget, we are building an NHS able to meet patients' needs and expectations now and in the future."
A Department of Health source added: "New changes to the NHS constitution, to be unveiled on Monday, will set out a new legal right for patients to be consulted on end-of-life care decisions. The right will also include family and carers. NHS bodies, as well as private and voluntary providers supplying NHS services, are required by law to take account of it in their decisions and actions.
"End-of-life care, like the Liverpool Care Pathway, can give patients dignity and respect in their last days, but recent reports have suggested that there is more the NHS can do to ensure that patients, their family and carers are fully involved in all discussions and decisions."