“It is always the individual patient who decides, together with their doctor, over treatment and care. While the board does not make decisions in individual cases, we can describe the legal framework that applies and we have now done so,” said Anders Printz in a welfare board statement on Monday.
In a letter to the 32-year-old woman, sent also to other patients who had submitted similar requests, the board concluded that “health care legislation emphasizes respect for patient autonomy and integrity and that care should as much as possible be designed and implemented in consultation with the patient”.
The 32-year-old, who was was born with a neurological illness that has led to a continuous deterioration of her condition, was upbeat on Monday after being told of the welfare board’s findings.
“I am very happy and my soul is at ease,” she told the Expressen daily.
The board clarified that according to existing legislation, “if the patient does not want a life support treatment to be initiated or continued, the physician should respect the patient’s wishes”.
The advisory ruling extends beyond the terminally ill and covers the seriously ill that are being kept alive with medical efforts and thus addresses the controversial issue of euthanasia.
The board advises that, in order to discontinue life support treatment, the responsible physicians must have provided a definitive diagnosis to assess disease prognosis and the treatment options that are available.
The only exception to the constitutional principle that every citizen should be protected from forced care is when the law allows it, for example the provision allowing for compulsory psychiatric care.
The board has also advised that healthcare givers have a responsibility to provide a dying patient with pain killers and treatment for anxiety, for example to issue morphine or soporifics after the suspension of respiratory treatment.
“The point of departure is that it is the patient who decides what treatment he or she receives and when it should be stopped,” Anders Printz concluded.