Coronavirus (COVID-19) - our advice for doctors

We recognise that this is a very difficult and worrying time for doctors. Our professional standards provide a framework for ethical decision making in a wide range of situations. They should be followed as far as practical in the circumstances. We're regularly updating our advice for doctors as the situation develops.

Treatment and care towards the end of life: good practice in decision making

Patients coming to the end of their lives need high quality care and treatment. Providing this care is likely to involve making difficult and emotionally challenging decisions.

This guidance provides you with a framework to support you in meeting the needs of your patient as they come towards the end of their life. It includes advice on topics such as:

  • making decisions with patients who have capacity
  • what to do if your patient doesn’t have capacity
  • assessing the overall benefit of treatment
  • advanced care planning
  • meeting a patients' nutrition and hydration needs
  • cardiopulmonary resuscitation
  • the role of relatives, partners and others close to the patient     
  • organ donation and care after death.

There is also a useful section on neonates, children and young people. It reminds you that decisions about treatment for these patients must always be in their best interests. And it provides advice about remaining sensitive to a parent's concerns and help to resolve any disagreements.

This guidance came into effect 1 July 2010. It was updated on 15 March 2022.