Ethics & law
Caring for a dying patient
The shift from cure to palliation can be a challenge for doctors
Every year, more than half a million people die in the United Kingdom, and over half of these deaths occur in hospital. Junior doctors are often required to care for dying patients,1 and assessment and management of these patients are essential skills.234
The importance of good end of life care, both for the patient and for their family, is increasingly recognised. Sadly, many people dying in hospital continue to have unmet needs, and, in the UK, more than half of complaints referred to the Healthcare Commission (the Care Quality Commission’s predecessor) concerned the care of dying people.5 Acquisition of the basic skills required to care for people who are dying can improve the patients’ and their family’s experience of death, while also enhancing the safety, efficiency, and satisfaction of the junior doctor’s work.
Doctors are notoriously poor at prognosticating, and recognising that a person is dying is a skill that