Emergency legislation is needed to protect doctors and nurses from “inappropriate” legal action over critical Covid treatment decisions made amid the pressures of the pandemic, health organisations have argued.
A coalition of health bodies has written to Matt Hancock, the health secretary, calling for the law to be updated so medical workers do not feel “vulnerable to the risk of prosecution for unlawful killing” when treating coronavirus patients “in circumstances beyond their control”.
The letter, coordinated by the Medical Protection Society (MPS), states there are no legal safeguards for coronavirus-related issues such as when there are “surges in demand for resources that temporarily exceed supply”.
The coalition, which includes the British Medical Association and Doctors’ Association UK, wrote: “With the chief medical officers now determining that there is a material risk of the NHS being overwhelmed within weeks, our members are worried that not only do they face being put in this position but also that they could subsequently be vulnerable to a criminal investigation by the police.
“There is no national guidance, backed up by a clear statement of law, on when life-sustaining treatment can be lawfully withheld or withdrawn from a patient in order for it to benefit a different patient, and if so under what conditions. The first concern of a doctor is their patients and providing the highest standard of care at all times.”
Source: The Guardian, 16 January 2021