Health professionals are faced with a range of ethical issues in the context of providing palliative care and end of life care. For example, issues related to autonomy, decision-making, whether to withhold or withdraw treatment, nutrition and hydration. Awareness of and sensitive management of these ethical issues is a hallmark of high quality care.
National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) Guidelines
The National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) has issued guidelines for the ethical management of people with advanced chronic or terminal conditions in the final months of life. The framework is intended for health professionals and patients. It is designed to guide deliberations over ethical aspects of providing care during a patient’s journey through an advanced chronic or terminal condition. It outlines four key ethical principles:
- Clincial integrity – care of the whole person
- Respect for persons – the patient is the best person to make decisions about their care, in keeping with their values and beliefs
- Justice – taking into account the needs of all concerned in the care of the patient, including family, carers and others
- Benefit to the person – recognising the patient’s changing needs as the illness progresses and ensuring that treatment achieves benefit for the patient.
This framework for health professionals aims to facilitate best ethical practice for those people who are receiving palliative care for an advanced chronic or terminal condition in the last twelve months or so of their lives. National Health and Medical Research Council, 2011.View File