Intended for healthcare professionals

Observations Medicine and the Media

The assault on the Liverpool care pathway

BMJ 2012; 345 doi: (Published 30 October 2012) Cite this as: BMJ 2012;345:e7316
  1. Margaret McCartney, general practitioner, Glasgow
  1. margaret{at}

The Liverpool care pathway has recently come under fire, with newspapers accusing hospitals of using it to kill terminally ill patients, Margaret McCartney reports

The Daily Mail newspaper has set its guns on the Liverpool care pathway. On 25 October it stated, “After a Mail campaign, investigation is launched into controversial guidelines on ‘hastening death’.” It reported that because “the Mail has highlighted the growing fears of patients’ relatives and many doctors that the care pathway is really a way of hastening the deaths of terminally ill patients,” the Association for Palliative Medicine would review the guidance.

The Mail claimed, “The average lifespan of a patient on the pathway is 29 hours. Yet some patients who were taken off the pathway at the insistence of their relatives have lived for several months.” The next day the headline, filling about a third of the front page, was: “Hospitals bribed to put patients on pathway to death.” The story went on to explain: “The incentives have been paid to hospitals that ensure a set percentage of patients who die on their wards have been put on the controversial regime …At least £30 million in extra money from taxpayers is estimated to have been handed to hospitals …

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