The Care Not Killing Alliance, representing over 40 organizations, has welcomed the investigation into the Liverpool Care Pathway announced by Health Minister Norman Lamb.
The Liverpool Care Pathway was developed at the Royal Liverpool University Hospital and the city's Marie Curie hospice to relieve suffering in dying patients, setting out principles for their treatment in their final days and hours.
But it has been dogged by controversy with claims that patients who were not imminently dying have been placed on it and that patients' families were not fully consulted and informed.
A series of changes to the NHS Constitution to be announced by the Government today will include giving patients and relatives an explicit right to be consulted at every stage of end-of-life treatment, where possible.
The proposals would also open the way for hospitals which depart from guidelines to face legal challenges on behalf of patients.
Under the proposals being outlined today, a section of the NHS constitution which says that patients have a right to a general say in their care will be toughened up to make clear they should be 'involved fully' in 'all discussions and decisions' about their care, adding: 'including in your end of life care'.
It adds that people should be given special support to help them take it in makes clear: 'Where appropriate this right includes your family and carers.'
Mr Lamb said shortcomings could potentially be challenged in the courts under new powers for the new Clinical Commissioning Groups.
Dr Peter Saunders, Campaign Director of Care Not Killing said:
'We welcome this inquiry and strengthening of the NHS Constitution aimed at improving care for those in the last hours or days of life. When used appropriately by skilled staff the Liverpool Care Pathway is a useful clinical tool which has improved the care of thousands of dying patients. But case reports of it being used with patients who are not imminently dying or without families being fully informed have fuelled concerns and need to be fully investigated.'
'We hope that this inquiry will, lead to better care for dying patients and restored public confidence. The care of the dying needs to be in the hands of people who are fully trained and adequately supervised with regular careful audit to ensure that all patients receive the best care possible and that abuses do not occur.'