New guidelines presented by the Swedish Society of Medicine (Svenska Läkaresällskapet) make it possible for physicians to discontinue life-extending treatment if requested to do so by a patient.
If a patient is capable of decision-making, is well-informed and aware of the consequences of various treatment alternatives, doctors have been advised to respect the patient's wish not to begin life-extending treatment. Patients may also request a cessation of an ongoing course of treatment.
In a much-publicized case last year, a 35-year-old Swede chose to travel to a euthanasia clinic in Zürich to die. He had previously appealed in vain to be allowed to take a similar course of action in Sweden.
Had he lived today, Swedish doctors could have administered an anaesthetic and helped him to turn off his respirator, Dagens Medicin reports.
"The new guidelines stress the right of the patient to be involved in deciding whether to bring an end to life-extending treatment," said Niels Lynöe, chairman of the society's ethical delegation.