“Difficult dying” by PJ Johnson/Flickr

By John Martin

The United Kingdom’s National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) is urging health and care workers to consider cultural, religious, or social preferences of patients in their final days.

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Of the half-million deaths each year in England, three-quarters were anticipated by medical staff. A new quality standard from the health watchdog sets out care standards for patients age 18 or older in their last two to three days of life. It sets out a series of measures that should help those in their final days. People would receive an individual care plan and opportunities to discuss the care they want to receive.

“Control of pain and other distressing symptoms is very important for dying people, but good end of life care goes far beyond that,” said Sam Ahmedzai, emeritus professor of palliative medicine and a specialist member of NICE’s Quality Standards Advisory Committee.

“It is distressing that currently 85 percent of patients in acute hospitals are not offered this care because their wishes are not sought,” said the Rev. Brendan McCarthy, the Church of England’s national adviser on medical ethics.

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