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New rules issued about end-of-life care in Sweden

The Swedish National Board of Health and Welfare on Jne 17, 2011 has issued new rules for palliative care that in some cases give terminally ill patients the right to die.  Although issued as “new”, these rules do not solve the issue of physician assisted voluntary death (suicide) or (active) euthanasia.

Berit Hasselmark, vice president of RTVD Sweden reports on this as follows:

“After 20 years of silence from one of the most important sources in Sweden, when it comes to new regulations and guide lines regarding terminally ill persons and palliative care, we finally got this result (in 75 pages of text) as seen in short below (taken from a text to listeners of Swedish Radio abroad).

I e – no answer to the question of physician assisted volontary death (suicide) or to active euthanasia. Briefly spoken, things remain as before, now only more clearly defined. In the Swedish organization RTVD we are of course dissapointed, but so are also other persons, prominent in the health care field.

The rules also require that all seriously ill patients should have a specific doctor they can contact. Patients will be able to stop any life-support treatments, even if it means they could die. But before that type of decision can be made, a doctor must first consult with another licensed professional and the patient’s doctor.

But several organizations are criticizing the rules, saying they do not address the ethical issues in an adequate manner. Ingemar Engström, the head of the Swedish Society for Medicine‘s ethical delegation, tells Swedish Radio that these types of ethical questions should not be completely given over to doctors. “We must first determine what the patient wants and what the patient’s loved ones are aware of,” he says.

The new rules for end-of-life care will be implemented on August 15, 2011″.