Revival ruling splits medics
NEW GUIDELINES which give senior nurses the power to decide whether to resuscitate seriously ill patients are dividing Jewish medical professionals.
The British Medical Association, the Royal College of Nursing and the Resuscitation Council (UK) stated that “suitably experienced nurses may make decisions if local policy allows”. Previously, only doctors were able to make such decisions.
Dr Jonathan Singer, based at Bridge House NHS health care centre in North London, believes that life-and-death decisions “should be made by a doctor who knows the patient well. I don’t see how they dare give a senior nurse that responsibility”. But Michelle Suskin, a consultant in anaesthetics at Watford General Hospital, said senior nurses should be able “to make a decision to prevent a patient having treatment against their wishes”.
Liberal Judaism chief executive and Kingston Hospital chaplain Rabbi Danny Rich agreed: “Quite often, nurses are just as close to patients as doctors are.”
Dr Vivienne Nathanson, head of science and ethics at the BMA, said the guidelines had been published after the Mental Capacity Act became law on October 1. “Because of changes in legislation, it was sensible to update our guidelines. There are now nurse-consultants looking after patients when no one else is involved, so we needed to deal with these issues,” she said.
London Charedi school principal Rabbi Avraham Pinter said it was “imperative that, in health authorities that serve the Jewish communities, local policies should take account of the sanctity that the Jewish community puts on life”. If not, people “would not have confidence in having their loved ones in hospital”.
The Board of Deputies said: “All patients and families should be allowed to consult with their religious adviser, and doctors — including ‘nurse consultants’ — should be educated, trained, and briefed as to the role of halachah (Jewish law) in the decision-making process.”