Chapter

Palliative care: an ethical and legal duty?

John Keown

in The Law and Ethics of Medicine

Published in print May 2012 | ISBN: 9780199589555
Published online September 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191741036 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199589555.003.0011
Palliative care: an ethical and legal duty?

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This chapter considers whether there is an ethical and legal duty to provide palliative care. It begins by noting the inadequate availability of palliative care, even in developed countries like the UK and US. It then contends that there is an ethical duty to provide reasonable palliative care and considers whether there may also be a human right to palliative care. It proceeds to argue that there is a legal duty to provide palliative care, in the civil law through the tort of negligence and in the criminal law through legislation punishing the wilful neglect of certain patients, such as the mentally incapacitated. It concludes by suggesting legislation to extend the duty to provide palliative care to all patients, either broadly through an extension of the crime of wilful neglect or narrowly through legislation perhaps modelled on the law protecting animals from unnecessary suffering, or by both.

Keywords: palliative care; ethics; human rights; law; wilful neglect; animals

Chapter.  8308 words. 

Subjects: Medical and Healthcare Law

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