The Liverpool Care Pathway.
What Catholics Need To Know.

The Liverpool Care Pathway - A Summary

The Liverpool Care Pathway for the Dying Patient (LCP) is a care pathway which a patient can expect in the final days and hours of life, which also becomes a structured record of the actions and outcomes that develop. It aims to help doctors and nurses provide end-of-life care.

 At some point in a Catholics life an elderly relative will be dying in hospital and the doctors/nurses will turn around and say that your relative is going to be put on the Liverpool Care Pathway. The majority of Catholics will be unaware of what this actually is. 

Catholics who try to be faithful to the Magisterium of the Church need to know what the consequences of this are in relation to Humanae Vitae & Evangelium Vitae.



To quote a leading contributor to the Catholic Medical Quarterly

"Once you are on the Liverpool Care Pathway you will die; even if you were not dying!"

As I have stated at the end of this article - If in doubt do not take my word for it - ask your priest. 

It is worth noting that the incorrect administration of the LCP technique does not in itself contravene Catholic teaching. Most issues involve the following points. It is true to say that the CBCEW rubber stamped the LCP initially in its 'End of Life Document'. However, as the above two articles demonstrate, after numerous Catholic medical professionals have complained about LCP, Archbishop Smith has now contacted the government and requested an official inquiry into LCP.

Below is only a fraction of the information available. I have included it as a starting point. A look at other LCP articles on the SPUC site will go in to more depth. The list of medical professionals and bodies stating that there are problems is steadily growing. Particularly in the case of Catholic medical professionals.


1. Many Catholics, including some priests, now consider LCP to be going against the teachings of the Catholic Church.

2. Under LCP, nutrition and hydration is considered to be a clinical treatment which may be withdrawn. However, note that CDF directives state that nutrition and hydration are forms of natural care and not removable clinical treatment.

3. All Catholics need to be aware that the Liverpool Care Pathway has at no point been specifically authorised by any department in the Vatican to be morally or ethically sound.
4. Catholics need to be aware that the Liverpool Care Pathway uses powerful sedation for the last 72hrs of life which is acknowledged by some doctors as speeding up death in certain circumstances (see below).

5. In medical papers by Gomes 2011 & Trescott 2008 it states that patients who are terminally ill with non-cancer diagnoses are more likely to have their lives unnecessarily shortened by opiates.

6. Faithful Catholics need to be made aware of Pope Pius XII's allocutio to anaesthetists Febuary 1957 which spoke of the deprivation of consciousness for unnecessary, non-grave reasons as 'a deplorable practice'….'repugnant to Christian sentiments' and ultimately evil!

7. The guidelines of Liverpool Care Pathway version 12 state that food and water may be removed when it is deemed 'in the patient's best interests'. However, as the next point shows, doctors can vary in their decisions regarding ‘the patients best interests’….

8. There are numerous reports regarding the quality of implementation of the LCP guidelines. This included the report in January 2010 by the Royal College of Physicians and the British Society of Gastroenterology that was produced in reaction to the lack of agreement on when artificial nutrition and hydration is appropriate. They considered evidence of substandard practice both in relation to stopping and inappropriately continuing feeding.

9. There are examples where there have been disagreements between the medical profession and patient’s relatives when patients were unable to express their wishes. There are numerous examples on the internet where families believe that LCP guidelines (including updated guidelines) have not been adhered to.

10. The Liverpool Care Pathway's 72hr prognosis-limit is used as a determinant for sedating opiate provision for analgesia rather than a needs-based pain-alleviation system i.e. there are times when other options are available but, are not being utilised by medical teams.

11. The Liverpool care pathway actuates the decision of the Bland case i.e. anyone unable to speak for themselves can now be starved and desiccated to death by the decision of a doctors or a next of kin.

12. An early LCP 2008 article in The American Journal of Hospice and Palliative care criticised the Liverpool Pathway for its approach and not taking an explicit position on the time of removal artificial hydration for critically ill patients. Some of the problems have been addressed BUT, some Doctors have stated that NOT all of the problems have been dealt with.

13. Catholics also need to be aware of Doctor's warnings including those views in the 2009 The Daily Telegraph who stated that the pathway has been blamed by some doctors for hastening the death of some terminally ill patients, and possibly masking signs that the patient is improving.

14. The CBCEW have taken 'Catholic based' scientific advise however, they have not ultimately taken seriously family concerns, media condemnation, and MOST IMPORTANTLY OF ALL other medical professional's concerns (i.e. ironically many Doctors who are not Catholic) that have stated that strong sedation being given until the death of patients always mask signs of improvement. Nor do they deal with the concerns that that LCP is encouraging a ‘tick box’ attitude whereby signs of improvement are further missed.

15. Please note that: Professional Catholics will state that all these issues have been cleared up by new guidelines however,  this simply is not the case. If you are unsure do some research yourself and ask your priest. DO NOT rely on the judgement of a professional Catholic i.e. a Catholic who's career depends upon 'towing the line'!

16. The Liverpool Care Pathway goes against Humanae Vitae and Evangelium Vitae.

17. An increasing number of Catholics believe that the Liverpool care pathway is an intrinsically morally disordered evil which appears to have been accepted for use (in their draft response) by Catholics by the CBCEW.

18. Dr Jacqueline Laing, Senior Law Lecturer & director of Juris has stated:

"Medical concerns about the very possibility of diagnosing imminent death are familiar. Where this diagnosis is made, the combination of morphine and dehydration are likely to undermine a patient’s capacity. Persistent dehydration of even the fittest sedated patient will kill him. That is the problem with the Pathway. It reverses the burden of proof so that an incapacitated patient must speak on his own behalf in favour of water. Even assuming he is well enough, as Kane Gorny’s family found, his pleas may not be heard. The concerns of families, lawyers and healthcare professionals about this programme demand address. Healthcare costs, bed-clearing, political Malthusianism and the philosophical dehumanisation of the vulnerable pervasive in contemporary bioethics are all likely to rationalise bureaucratised homicide."

18. Senior Catholic source: Bishops 'rushing through' controversial terminal care guide Click Here for the Damian Thompson Telegraph Article

Many thanks to OTSOTA for helping with the information contained in the above article. PP is someone who has implored the Bishop's to take this issue seriously long before I started writing about it.

You do not have to consider what I have written in this post however, what is significant is that some Catholic priests are now stating that LCP is going against the teaching of the Catholic Church. 



  1. when you hear top doctors and professors of medicine speak, to national newspapers saying the liverpool care pathway is a dangerous implementation it is not only the catholic religion who are against it as i am myself, seeing two relatives of mine murdered yes murdered before their time, one as long as 20 yrs ago, it should be abolished its a cruel way to die, starvation and dehydrated coupled with morphine and other drugs to induce them into a coma, its an act against gods wishes, and i fully agree with the roman catholic church. who condem it.

  2. my Uncle was killed by the LCP. He asked me for water but had dysphagia due to a stroke. I tried to give him very small sips but the nurses who suddenly became hyperactive rushed over and knocked a bottle of Holy Water out of my hand! I was told if it happened again I could be barred. I won't forget his begging and imploring for water. I wasn't his next of kin and my cousin didn't understand what was happening and had little experience of medical procedures.