London, Oct 27 (UNI) Senior nurses in Britain will now make life or death decisions about seriourly ill patients, British Medical Association (BMA) has said.
Nurses were thrust into a medical ethics row last night after senior clinical nurses were given the authority to decide whether or not patients should be resuscitated.
The BMA guidelines came in response to the Mental Capacity Act, which came into force earlier this month. The act introduced the concept of a living will, which allows patients to state in advance their wish not to be resuscitated in the event of their heart or breathing stopping, or to choose someone to make the decision for them if they are incapable of doing so.
However, the official guidance issued by the BMA has triggered a fierce debate in the english country.
Although some medical professionals welcomed the new rules, patient groups have voiced concerns that they could place unfair pressure on nurses.
Earlier, only consultants and doctors of General Practitioner rank had the power to decide not to resuscitate.
Under the new rules, ''properly experienced'' clinical nurses will be able to make that judgement.
Expressing his views on the guidance, General Secretary of the Christian Medical Fellowship Dr Peter Saunders said, ''Nurses should not be making such a decision.'' ''It is always going to be a difficult call to decide whether someone should live or die. The decision should always be taken after very careful consideration by senior doctors,'' he was quoted as saying by the Telegraph.
''There is absolutely no way this can be delegated to nursing staff. It's unfair on them to make such a call. They have neither the training or the experience,'' he added.
Liberal Democrat health spokesman Norman Lamb said allowing nurses to take such decisions could be the start of a slippery slope toward critical clinical decisions being put in the hands of increasingly junior staff.
Dr Peter Carter of the Royal College of Nursing, however, voiced the opposite.
''This guidance should help spare patients and their families the heartache and indignity of repeated and sometimes unnecessary resuscitation attempts,'' he said.
One of the pressure groups in Britain said the move sounded like yet another nail in the coffin for vulnerable and elderly patients.
The new guidance should allow patients with a terminal illness to pass away peacefully instead of being subject to pointless resuscitation attempts, it added.