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The Law and Ethics of MedicineEssays on the Inviolability of Human Life$
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John Keown

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780199589555

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2012

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199589555.001.0001

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Palliative care: an ethical and legal duty?

Palliative care: an ethical and legal duty?

(p.309) Chapter 11 Palliative care: an ethical and legal duty?
The Law and Ethics of Medicine

John Keown

Oxford University Press

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

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