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How are treatment and care decisions made in Northern Ireland?

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You can make a decision about what treatment you want from the options offered to you by the doctor. You also have the legal right to refuse any medical treatment, including life-sustaining treatment, such as resuscitation, artificial nutrition and hydration, or breathing machines.

Understanding my treatment options

The General Medical Council’s (GMC) Guidance on treatment and care towards the end of life says that your doctor should help you decide which treatment is right for you.

Your doctor:

  • should explain to you in clear language what your treatment options are
  • should explain the pros and cons of each treatment and give you time, information and help so that you can make your decision
  • can recommend a treatment to you, but not pressure you to accept it

Unlike a refusal of treatment, you don’t have the right to request a treatment. This is because no one has the legal right to demand treatment. Doctors don’t have to give you treatment just because you ask for it. Instead, they decide whether a treatment is medically appropriate for your condition and then you decide whether or not you want that treatment.

If you ask for a treatment that your doctor don’t believe is appropriate, they should:

  • discuss your reasons for wanting the treatment with you
  • explain why they don’t think it is appropriate and discuss other options
  • refer you to another doctor for a second opinion if you ask for one