Skip to main content

Tube Feeding/Hydration

Volume 404: debated on Monday 28 April 2003

The text on this page has been created from Hansard archive content, it may contain typographical errors.

To ask the Secretary of State for Health what his policy is on the guidelines for doctors issued by the British Medical Association and the General Medicial Council on withdrawing or withholding tube feeding and hydration from patients who are not dying. [108537]

Artificial nutrition and hydration are a form of medical treatment and are subject to the same principles as those governing medical treatment. There is no lawful justification for giving or continuing treatment that is not in the best interests of a patient who is unable to consent. The guidance from the British Medical Association and General Medical Council is in line with this legal position.

To ask the Secretary of State for Health what guidance he issues on action relatives may take should they wish to dispute a decision taken by doctors to end a patient's life by withdrawal of food or fluid when this action has not been requested by the patient. [108662]

Any decision to withdraw artificial nutrition and hydration where the patient lacks the capacity to consent must be made in the best interests of that patient, based on a judgment that this treatment is of no curative or beneficial effect. Professional guidance states that those close to the patient should be involved in the assessment of the patient's best interests. Where relatives wish to dispute a decision taken about the treatment of a patient who lacks the capacity to consent, they can take this up through the national health service complaints procedure or seek a court judgment. The Department of Health does not issue guidance for relatives specifically on this issue.